Epidemiology of trauma: frequency and impact of different potentially traumatic events on different demographic groups

J Consult Clin Psychol. 1992 Jun;60(3):409-18. doi: 10.1037//0022-006x.60.3.409.


The frequency and impact of 10 potentially traumatic events were examined in a sample of 1,000 adults. Drawn from four southeastern cities, the sample was half Black, half White, half male, half female, and evenly divided among younger, middle-aged, and older adults. Over their lifetimes, 69% of the sample experienced at least one of the events, as did 21% in the past year alone. The 10 events varied in importance, with tragic death occurring most often, sexual assault yielding the highest rate of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and motor vehicle crash presenting the most adverse combination of frequency and impact. Numerous differences were observed in the epidemiology of these events across demographic groups. Lifetime exposure was higher among Whites and men than among Blacks and women; past-year exposure was highest among younger adults. When impact was analyzed as a continuous variable (perceived stress), Black men appeared to be most vulnerable to the effects of events, but young people showed the highest rates of PTSD.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Life Change Events*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Racial Groups
  • Sex Factors
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / diagnosis*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / etiology
  • Stress, Physiological / epidemiology*
  • Stress, Physiological / etiology
  • Stress, Physiological / psychology
  • United States / epidemiology