Objective: The aim of the present study was to isolate the unique contribution of physical injury to the subsequent development of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Method: Participants were 60 injured soldiers and a comparison group of 40 soldiers (matched by rank, military role, and length of service) who took part in the same combat situations but were not injured. Current and lifetime diagnoses were determined by using the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV. In addition, an extensive battery of self-report questionnaires was given to assess severity of PTSD, anxiety, depression, and dissociative symptoms. The average time that elapsed between the injury and the interview was 15.5 months (SD=7.3).
Results: Ten (16.7%) of the 60 injured survivors but only one (2.5%) of the 40 comparison soldiers met diagnostic criteria for PTSD at the time of the interview (odds ratio=8.6, 95% confidence interval=1.1-394.3). Moreover, wounded participants had significantly higher scores than their noninjured counterparts on all clinical measures. Finally, presence of PTSD was not related to severity of injury or severity of the trauma.
Conclusions: The findings clearly indicate that bodily injury is a major risk factor-rather than a protective one-for PTSD. While supporting the notion that bodily injury contributes to the appraisal of the traumatic event as more dangerous, the data also suggest that this heightened level of perceived threat is not a simple, straightforward function of the severity of injury or of the traumatic event.