Facts about PTSD
General Adult Population
The following information on PTSD in the general adult population is taken from the National Comorbidity Survey (NCS) report.
The estimated lifetime prevalence of PTSD among adult Americans is 7.8 percent, with women (10.4 percent) twice as likely as men (5 percent) to have PTSD at some point in their lives. This represents a small proportion of those who have experienced a traumatic event at some point in their lives, for 60.7 percent of men and 51.2 percent of women reported at least one traumatic event. The most frequently experienced traumas were:
- witnessing someone being badly injured or killed
- being involved in a fire, flood or natural disaster
- being involved in a life-threatening accident
- combat exposure
The majority of these people experienced two or more types of trauma. More than 10 percent of men and 6 percent of women reported four or more types of trauma during their lifetimes.
The traumatic events most often associated with PTSD were:
for men: rape, combat exposure, childhood neglect and childhood physical abuse
for women: rape, sexual molestation, physical attack, being threatened with a weapon and childhood physical abuse
But none of these events invariably produced PTSD in those exposed to it, and a particular type of traumatic event does not necessarily affect different sectors of the population in the same way.
The NCS report concluded that “PTSD is a highly prevalent lifetime disorder that often persists for years. The qualifying events for PTSD are also common, with many respondents reporting the occurrence of quite a few such events during their lifetimes.”
Vietnam War Veterans
The following information on PTSD among Vietnam War veterans is taken from the National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study (NVVRS):
The estimated lifetime prevalence of PTSD among American Vietnam theater veterans is 30.9 for men and 26.9 for women. An additional 22.5 of men and 21.2 of women have had partial PTSD at some point in their lives. Thus more than half of all male Vietnam veterans and almost half of all female Vietnam veterans, about 1,700,000 Vietnam veterans in all, have experienced “clinically serious stress reaction symptoms.”
15.2 percent of all male Vietnam theater veterans (479,000 out of 3,140,000 men who served in Vietnam) and 8.1 percent of all female Vietnam theater veterans (610 out of 7,200 women who served in Vietnam) are current cases of PTSD. [“Current” means 1986-88 when the Survey was conducted.]
The NVVRS report also contains these figures on other problems of Vietnam veterans:
40 percent of Vietnam theater veteran men have been divorced at least once (10 percent had two or more divorces), 14.1 percent report high levels of marital problems, and 23.1 percent have high levels of parental problems.
Almost half [of male Vietnam theater veterans currently suffering from PTSD] had been arrested or in jail at least once 34.2 percent more than once and 11.5 percent had been convicted of a felony.
The estimated lifetime prevalence of alcohol abuse or dependence among male theater veterans is 39.2 percent, and the estimate for current alcohol abuse or dependence is 11.2 percent. The estimated lifetime prevalence of drug abuse or dependence among male theater veterans is 5.7 percent, and the estimate for current drug abuse or dependence is 1.8 percent.
Because the NVVRS sample size underrepresented members of certain ethnic minorities, the Matsunaga Vietnam Veterans Project undertook further epidemiological research among Native American, Asian American, and Pacific Islander veterans.
PTSD, N. (2016). Facts about PTSD. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 24, 2017, from https://psychcentral.com/lib/facts-about-ptsd/