Physical health problems after single trauma exposure: when stress takes root in the body

J Am Psychiatr Nurses Assoc. 2011 Nov-Dec;17(6):378-92. doi: 10.1177/1078390311425187.


Research has established that chronic stress, including traumatic events, leads to adverse health outcomes. The literature has primarily used two approaches: examining the effect of acute stress in a laboratory setting and examining the link between chronic stress and negative health outcomes. However, the potential health impact of a single or acute traumatic event is less clear. The goal of this literature review is to extend the literature linking both chronic trauma exposure and posttraumatic stress disorder to adverse health outcomes by examining current literature suggesting that a single trauma may also have negative consequences for physical health. The authors review studies on health, including cardiovascular, immune, gastrointestinal, neurohormonal, and musculoskeletal outcomes; describe potential pathways through which single, acute trauma exposure could adversely affect health; and consider research and clinical implications.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cardiovascular Diseases / complications
  • Comorbidity
  • Disease*
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / complications
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone
  • Immune System Diseases / complications
  • Life Change Events*
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / complications
  • Pain / complications
  • Psychophysiologic Disorders / complications
  • Reproductive Health
  • Risk Factors
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / complications*
  • Stress, Psychological / complications*


  • Hydrocortisone