Purpose of review: We review evidence linking PTSD to physical health symptoms and specific disorders, highlighting areas with multiple studies and objective measures of disease states when available. We also examine evidence for biological, behavioral, and psychosocial mechanisms underlying these associations and discuss the clinical implications of recent research.
Recent findings: Recent meta-analyses have found that evidence is particularly strong for increased risk of cardiovascular, metabolic, and musculoskeletal disorders among patients with PTSD. Numerous studies have found alterations in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, sympathetic nervous system, inflammation, and health behaviors that could increase risk of illness, but few studies have simultaneously incorporated measures of mechanisms and disease outcomes. Future research should focus on expanding the diversity of populations studied, particularly with respect to underrepresented racial and ethnic groups. Longitudinal studies that incorporate repeated measures of PTSD, pathogenic mechanisms of disease, and physical health outcomes and the addition of physical health outcomes to PTSD treatment trials will be most informative for the field.
Keywords: Cardiovascular disease; Chronic disease; Comorbidity; Mechanisms; Physical health; Posttraumatic stress disorder.