Post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms and associated health and social vulnerabilities in older jail inmates

Aging Ment Health. 2017 Oct;21(10):1106-1112. doi: 10.1080/13607863.2016.1201042. Epub 2016 Jul 1.


Objectives: To examine post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms in older jail inmates, and to determine whether adverse social and health-related characteristics were associated with having PTSD symptoms.

Method: We performed an exploratory cross-sectional study of 238 older (age ≥55 years) jail inmates from a county jail. PTSD symptoms were determined using the Primary Care PTSD (PC-PTSD) screen. Reporting three or more PTSD symptoms was defined as a positive screen. Descriptive statistics and multiple regression analyses were used to examine the prevalence of a positive PTSD screen and associations with social and health-related characteristics.

Results: The mean age was 59 years, 64% were Black, and 82% reported an annual income ≤$15,000. Nearly 40% of older jail inmates had a positive PTSD screen and 10% reported a prior PTSD diagnosis by a physician. Older jail inmates with a positive PTSD screen were significantly more likely than those with a negative PTSD screen to report medication insecurity in the past year, impairment in two or more activities of daily living, traumatic brain injury, pain in the past week, and poor self-rated health.

Conclusion: Over one in three of the older jail inmates in this study had a positive PTSD screen, though only one in five of those with a positive screen reported a prior PTSD diagnosis. Screening for PTSD in jails may help identify older inmates who would benefit from additional mental health treatment and reentry planning to improve health in this population.

Keywords: PTSD; geriatric; health; incarceration.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Aged
  • Aging*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain / epidemiology*
  • Prisoners / statistics & numerical data*
  • San Francisco / epidemiology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / epidemiology*
  • Vulnerable Populations / statistics & numerical data*