Exposure to traumatic events among adolescents in four nations

Torture. 2008;18(1):2-11.


Background: Although studies indicate that adolescents, like adults, might develop posttraumatic stress disorder after exposure to traumatic events, the research on this age group is still sparse.

Method: In three national representative samples and one national total sample of 1,206 8th and 9th-grade students with a mean age of 14.5 years, the prevalence of 19 potential traumatizing and distressing events were reported, along with the psychological impact of these events.

Findings: Ninety percent of the adolescents had been exposed to at least one event. The most common events were the death of a family member, threat of violence, bullying, near-drowning, and traffic accidents. Gender was associated with specific events. The estimated lifetime prevalence of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the total sample was 14.6 percent, whereas another 13 percent reached a subclinical level of PTSD. Following exposure, females suffered from PTSD two and a half times more often than males. The relative risk for PTSD given a specific event is described. Being exposed to multiple traumatic events was associated with an increase in PTSD. Cultural differences were found in prevalence of PTSD, exposure to specific events and in the female male ratio in PTSD.

Conclusion: The findings indicate substantial mental health problems in adolescents that are associated with various types of victimization.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Culture
  • Death
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Life Change Events
  • Male
  • Multicenter Studies as Topic
  • Prevalence
  • Risk
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / epidemiology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology*
  • Violence / psychology
  • Wounds and Injuries / epidemiology
  • Wounds and Injuries / psychology*