Peritraumatic distress and the course of posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms: a meta-analysis

Can J Psychiatry. 2012 Feb;57(2):122-9. doi: 10.1177/070674371205700209.


Objective: To examine how peritraumatic distress modulates the severity of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) according to the timing of the PTSD symptom assessments.

Method: A systematic literature review of English- and French-language studies having administered the Peritraumatic Distress Inventory (PDI) was conducted. Meta-analyses were performed on correlations relating PDI and PTSD symptom scores obtained from the sampled studies. The meta-analyses, which included calculations of regression slopes, took into consideration the time at which PTSD symptoms were assessed following the traumatic event and the timing of the PDI assessment.

Results: The literature review yielded a total of 22 studies. The meta-analysis performed over all studies resulted in a pooled correlation coefficient of 0.55 between the PDI and PTSD symptom scores. Meta-regression analyses conducted over all data revealed no apparent decrease in the correlations according to the timing of the PTSD symptom assessments. However, there were numerical or statistically significant declines in regression slopes when the meta-regressions were separately conducted on studies having administered the PDI either within, or following, a 1-month period after a traumatic event.

Conclusions: While PDI or PTSD symptom score correlations remain generally significant, they tend to decline as time elapses between the traumatic event and the PTSD assessment. This suggests there may be factors other than peritraumatic distress that increasingly account for the long-term trajectory PTSD symptoms.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
  • Humans
  • Life Change Events*
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Regression Analysis
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / diagnosis*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology
  • Time Factors