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Posttraumatic stress and delay discounting: a meta-analytic review.

Psychological Medicine 2023 November 11
Delay discounting-the extent to which individuals show a preference for smaller immediate rewards over larger delayed rewards-has been proposed as a transdiagnostic neurocognitive process across mental health conditions, but its examination in relation to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is comparatively recent. To assess the aggregated evidence for elevated delay discounting in relation to posttraumatic stress, we conducted a meta-analysis on existing empirical literature. Bibliographic searches identified 209 candidate articles, of which 13 articles with 14 independent effect sizes were eligible for meta-analysis, reflecting a combined sample size of N = 6897. Individual study designs included case-control (e.g. examination of differences in delay discounting between individuals with and without PTSD) and continuous association studies (e.g. relationship between posttraumatic stress symptom severity and delay discounting). In a combined analysis of all studies, the overall relationship was a small but statistically significant positive association between posttraumatic stress and delay discounting ( r = .135, p < .0001). The same relationship was statistically significant for continuous association studies ( r = .092, p = .027) and case-control designs ( r = .179, p < .001). Evidence of publication bias was minimal. The included studies were limited in that many did not concurrently incorporate other psychiatric conditions in the analyses, leaving the specificity of the relationship to posttraumatic stress less clear. Nonetheless, these findings are broadly consistent with previous meta-analyses of delayed reward discounting in relation to other mental health conditions and provide further evidence for the transdiagnostic utility of this construct.

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