Rates of DSM-IV-TR Trauma Exposure and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Among Newly Matriculated College Students

Psychol Trauma. 2011;3(2):148-156. doi: 10.1037/a0021260.


The negotiation of the freedoms and responsibilities introduced as adolescents begin college may be particularly challenging for those with a trauma history and traumatic stress sequelae (posttraumatic stress disorder; PTSD). The present study examined the prevalence of and risk for trauma and PTSD in a large sample of college students. Matriculating students (N = 3,014; 1,763 female, 1,251 male) at two U.S. universities completed online and paper assessments. Sixty-six percent reported exposure to a Criterion A trauma. Nine percent met criteria for PTSD. Female gender was a risk factor for trauma exposure. Gender and socioeconomic status (SES) were associated with trauma severity. Although in bivariate models, gender and SES were associated with PTSD, multivariate analyses suggested this risk was a function of trauma severity. Thus, students enter college with significant trauma histories and PTSD symptoms. Findings highlight the potential for outreach to incoming students with trauma and point to research directions to enhance understanding of the psychological needs of entering college students.

Keywords: PTSD; college; gender; socio-demographic risk; trauma.