Post-traumatic stress disorder: findings from the Australian National Survey of Mental Health and Well-being

M Creamer, P Burgess, A C McFarlane
Psychological Medicine 2001, 31 (7): 1237-47

BACKGROUND: We report on the epidemiology of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the Australian community, including information on lifetime exposure to trauma, 12-month prevalence of PTSD, sociodemographic correlates and co-morbidity.

METHODS: Data were obtained from a stratified sample of 10,641 participants as part of the Australian National Survey of Mental Health and Well-being. A modified version of the Composite International Diagnostic Interview was used to determine the presence of PTSD, as well as other DSM-IV anxiety, affective and substance use disorders.

RESULTS: The estimated 12-month prevalence of PTSD was 1-33%, which is considerably lower than that found in comparable North American studies. Although females were at greater risk than males within the subsample of those who had experienced trauma, the large gender differences noted in some recent epidemiological research were not replicated. Prevalence was elevated among the never married and previously married respondents, and was lower among those aged over 55. For both men and women, rape and sexual molestation were the traumatic events most likely to be associated with PTSD. A high level of Axis 1 co-morbidity was found among those persons with PTSD.

CONCLUSIONS: PTSD is a highly prevalent disorder in the Australian community and is routinely associated with high rates of anxiety, depression and substance disorders. Future research is needed to investigate rates among other populations outside the North American continent.

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