Physical health conditions associated with posttraumatic stress disorder in U.S. older adults: results from wave 2 of the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions

J Am Geriatr Soc. 2012 Feb;60(2):296-303. doi: 10.1111/j.1532-5415.2011.03788.x. Epub 2012 Jan 27.


Objectives: To present findings on past-year medical conditions associated with lifetime trauma exposure and full and partial posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in a nationally representative sample of U.S. older adults.

Design: Face-to-face diagnostic interviews.

Setting: Wave 2 of the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions.

Participants: Nine thousand four hundred sixty-three adults aged 60 and older.

Measurements: Logistic regression analyses adjusting for sociodemographic characteristics and psychiatric comorbidity were used to evaluate associations between PTSD status and past-year medical disorders; linear regression models evaluated associations with past-month physical functioning.

Results: After adjustment for sociodemographic characteristics and comorbid lifetime mood, anxiety, substance use, attention-deficit/hyperactivity, and personality disorders, respondents with lifetime PTSD were more likely than respondents who reported experiencing one or more traumatic life events but who did not meet lifetime criteria for full or partial PTSD (trauma controls) to report being diagnosed with hypertension, angina pectoris, tachycardia, other heart disease, stomach ulcer, gastritis, and arthritis (odds ratios (ORs) = 1.3-1.8) by a healthcare professional; they also scored lower on a measure of physical functioning than controls and respondents with partial PTSD. Respondents with lifetime partial PTSD were more likely than controls to report past-year diagnoses of gastritis (OR = 1.7), angina pectoris (OR = 1.5), and arthritis (OR = 1.4) and reported worse physical functioning. Number of lifetime traumatic event types was associated with most of the medical conditions assessed; adjustment for these events reduced the magnitudes of and rendered nonsignificant most associations between PTSD status and medical conditions.

Conclusion: Older adults with lifetime PTSD have high rates of several physical health conditions, many of which are chronic disorders of aging, and poorer physical functioning. Older adults with lifetime partial PTSD have higher rates of gastritis, angina pectoris, and arthritis and poorer physical functioning.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / complications*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / epidemiology