Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder among Older Adults Experiencing Motor Vehicle Collision: A Multicenter Prospective Cohort Study

Am J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2017 Sep;25(9):953-963. doi: 10.1016/j.jagp.2017.03.011. Epub 2017 Apr 4.


Objective: To characterize risk factors for and consequences of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among older adults evaluated in the emergency department (ED) following motor vehicle collision (MVC).

Design: Prospective multicenter longitudinal study (2011-2015).

Setting: 9 EDs across the United States.

Participants: Adults aged 65 years and older who presented to an ED after MVC without severe injuries.

Measurements: PTSD symptoms were assessed 6 months after the ED visit using the Impact of Event Scale-Revised.

Results: Of 223 patients, clinically significant PTSD symptoms at 6 months were observed in 21% (95% CI 16%-26%). PTSD symptoms were more common in patients who did not have a college degree, had depressive symptoms prior to the MVC, perceived the MVC as life-threatening, had severe ED pain, and expected their physical or emotional recovery time to be greater than 30 days. Three factors (ED pain severity [0-10 scale], perceived life-threatening MVC [0-10 scale], and pre-MVC depressive symptoms [yes to either of two questions]), predicted 6-month PTSD symptoms with an area under the curve of 0.76. Compared to patients without PTSD symptoms, those with PTSD symptoms were at higher risk for persistent pain (72% versus 30%), functional decline (67% versus 42%), and new disability (49% versus 18%).

Conclusions: Among older adults treated in the ED following MVC, clinically significant PTSD symptoms at 6 months were present in 21% of patients and were associated with adverse health outcomes. Increased risk for PTSD development can be identified with moderate accuracy using information readily available in the ED.

Keywords: Emergency medicine; aged; geriatrics; multiple trauma; post-traumatic stress disorders; traffic accidents; trauma and stress disorders.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Traffic / psychology
  • Accidents, Traffic / statistics & numerical data*
  • Aged
  • Aging* / psychology
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Depression / epidemiology*
  • Depression / psychology
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pain / epidemiology*
  • Pain / etiology
  • Pain / psychology
  • Risk Factors
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / epidemiology*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology