[Prevalence of trauma-related disorders in the French WHO study: Santé mentale en population générale (SMPG)]

G Vaiva, L Jehel, O Cottencin, F Ducrocq, C Duchet, C Omnes, P Genest, F Rouillon, J-L Roelandt
L'Encéphale 2008, 34 (6): 577-83

INTRODUCTION: Trauma-related disorders are disabling affections of which epidemiological data change according to the country, population and measuring instruments. The prevalence of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) appears to have increased over the past 15 years, but one cannot tell whether it has indeed increased or whether the standardized procedure has improved. Moreover, very few epidemiologic studies among the general population have been conducted in Europe, notably in France.

DESIGN OF THE STUDY: The "Santé mentale en population générale" (SMPG) survey, that took place in France between 1999 and 2003 among more than 36 000 individuals, gives an estimation of the prevalence of psychotraumatic disorders in the general population. Multi-varied analyses were performed on PTSD-related variables and comorbid disorders. The instantaneous prevalence (past month) of PTSD was of 0.7% among the whole SMPG sample, with almost the same proportion of men (45%) and women (55%). There was a high rate of comorbidity among PTSD individuals, notably with mood disorders, anxiety disorders and addictive behaviour. There was an obvious relationship with suicidal behaviour, with 15-fold more suicide attempts during the past month among the PTSD population.

RESULTS: This survey analysed the consequences of a psychic traumatism over and above complete PTSD according to DSM-IV criteria, observing for instance the consequences for people exposed both to a trauma and suffering from at least one psychopathological symptom since the trauma. Those who suffered from a psychotraumatic syndrome, according to our enlarged definition, represented 5.3% of the population, half suffered from daily discomfort and a third of them used medication. Then, we compared those psychotraumatic syndromes to complete PTSD from a sociodemographic, functional and type of care point of view. There was little difference in prevalence of PTSD between men and women in the SMPG survey (45% vs 55%), which is clearly distinct from the other epidemiologic surveys named above. Regarding age, as in the ESEMeD survey, anxiety disorders appeared to be more frequent among younger people. The originality of the SMPG survey is obviously in the fact that it studied the functional impact of the psychic disorder, the type of care and the satisfaction level after care. Only 50% of the PTSD population feels sick which is, however, twice as high as for the psychotraumatized population. This doesn't fit either with the fact that 100% of the PTSD population say they feel uncomfortable with other people. The type of care is in the same vein: 50% of psychotherapies and 75% of medication, but also 25% of mild medicines and 25% of traditional medicines. Moreover, among the drugs, antidepressants (that are still the first choice treatment in all international recommendations) represent only 30%, whereas anxiolytics, hypnotics and phytotherapy represent the remaining 70%.

DISCUSSION: Regarding the type of care, the differences between the psychotraumatized population and the PTSD population are obvious. They are obvious in that which concerns the type of care, since the medication is similar. From a very global point of view, patients suffering from a subsyndromal PTSD rarely choose medical care (religion, mild or traditional medicine), while full PTSD patients definitely choose classical medical care (drugs, psychotherapy, and 30% of hospitalization). The prevalence of those who ask for care is very close to that observed in the ESEMeD survey, which was four individuals out of 10 suffering from PTSD.

CONCLUSION: The SMPG data show that its necessary to maintain the distinction between subsyndromal PTSD and full PTSD since the populations differ, but both need care.

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