Anxiety sensitivity mediates gender differences in post-concussive symptoms in a clinical sample

Psychiatry Res. 2017 Jun;252:242-246. doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2017.01.099. Epub 2017 Mar 7.


Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is both prevalent and potentially disabling. Extant literature has demonstrated women to report greater post-concussive symptoms (PCS) compared to men, highlighting the necessity of investigations into malleable, gender-linked risk factors for PCS that hold promise for reducing this gender disparity. Anxiety Sensitivity (AS) and Distress Tolerance (DT) are gender-linked risk factors that may be related to PCS. Despite a breadth of research supporting elevated AS and reduced DT in women, no study to date has investigated whether AS and DT mediate gender differences in PCS. The current sample was composed of 59 participants selected from a larger study based on their report of a past TBI. Findings indicated that AS, but not DT, significantly mediated gender differences in PCS. The present results suggest that AS is a cognitive risk factor that can partially account for the gender disparity in the expression of PCS. AS may influence an individual's interpretation of PCS as dangerous, thereby amplifying the perception of PCS severity. This suggests that efforts to reduce the burden of TBI may benefit from targeting AS in prevention and treatment paradigms, especially among women.

Keywords: Cognitive risk factors; Gender; Post-concussive symptoms; Traumatic brain injury.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anxiety / psychology*
  • Brain Injuries, Traumatic / complications
  • Brain Injuries, Traumatic / psychology*
  • Female
  • Health Status Disparities
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Post-Concussion Syndrome / etiology
  • Post-Concussion Syndrome / psychology*
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*
  • Young Adult