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Risk for PTSD Varies by Gender, Age

According to a new Scandinavian study, women are most vulnerable to PTSD at an older age than men.

Danish researchers discovered men are most vulnerable to PTSD between the ages of 41 and 45 years, while women are most vulnerable at ages 51 to 55. This supports previous research that has shown that men and women show differences in the age distribution of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) prevalence during their lifespan.

Ask Elklit and Daniel N. Ditlevsen, from the University of Southern Denmark and Odense University Hospital, Denmark, collected data from 6,548 participants in previous Danish or Nordic PTSD studies in order to investigate the gender difference in the lifespan distribution of PTSD.

According to Elklit, “People now live for an increased number of years compared to that of previous generations, and as a result individuals have more years in which they can be affected by the negative consequences that can follow traumatic experiences. It is therefore important to pay attention to the risk of PTSD in relation to different stages in the lifespan.”

The researchers found that the total prevalence of PTSD was 21.3 percent and, as expected, PTSD was twice as common in women as in men.

Most importantly, men and women peaked in the risk of PTSD a decade apart from each other during their respective lifespan.

Elklit said, “This difference is of particular interest and needs to be investigated further in future research in order to develop more thorough explanations for the effect.”

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental disorder that is characterized by the occurrence of intense and disturbing thoughts, images, or feelings related to some trauma they have experienced or witnessed. A person with PTSD may relive the event through nightmares or flashbacks while awake, and often grapple with depressive thoughts and sadness related to the trauma. People with PTSD often feel angry or fearful, and may feel detached from everyday society and their normal social lives because of their experiences.

PTSD is readily treated, however, with a focus on psychotherapy designed to help a person address the intrusive thoughts and flashbacks.

As stated on NCBI’s website, “The lifetime prevalence of PTSD is about 10–12% in women and 5–6% in men. There are similar differences between the sexes for (comorbid) disorders such as major depression and anxiety disorders. PTSD subcluster scores have been found to be increased in women, e.g. for re-experiencing and anxious arousal. Men and women experience different types of trauma, both in private life and at work, with women being exposed to more high-impact trauma (e.g. sexual trauma) than men, and at a younger age.”

According to the researchers when reviewing other studies that examined this topic, “In one of the most comprehensive epidemiological studies of PTSD conducted to date, the National Comorbidity Survey, results concluded both gender and age differences in PTSD. The results pertaining to gender differences concluded that women were approximately twice as likely as men to develop PTSD during their lifetime. This finding has since become well established with subsequent studies reaching similar conclusions.”

There were a number of limitations with the study, as outlined by the researchers.

“Possible limitations due to a lack of representativeness in the samples, undetected cohort effects, and biases due to method failure are likely to have influenced the results. […] Another limitation of the study concerns cultural considerations. The present study is based on data gathered in the Nordic countries of Denmark, Iceland, and The Faroe Islands. The results, therefore, must be taken with some consideration when comparing to other countries or areas outside the Nordic region.”

The research is found in BioMed Central’s open access journal Annals of General Psychiatry.

Source: BioMed Central

Risk for PTSD Varies by Gender, Age

This article has been updated from the original version, which was originally published here on July 22, 2010.

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2019). Risk for PTSD Varies by Gender, Age. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 1, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 15 Jun 2019 (Originally: 22 Jul 2018)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 15 Jun 2019
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