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Cumulative Stress Ups Risk of PTSD

Childhood troubles make you more vulnerable to post-traumatic stress disorder

FRIDAY, Jan. 23, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- The amount of stress young adults have experienced in their lives may influence their susceptibility to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after a traumatic incident.

That finding comes in a Florida State University study in the current issue of the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry.

The researchers conclude that cumulative stress, even relatively ordinary problems that occur years before a traumatic event, is a factor in a person's risk for PTSD. Parental divorce or failing a grade in school are examples of life adversities that may affect a person's future risk for PTSD.

The study may help explain why only about a quarter of people who suffer traumatic experience develop PTSD.

"This finding is unprecedented, and it has important implications for the prevention of PTSD and for intervention in cases of traumatic stress exposure," researcher and sociology professor Donald Lloyd says in a prepared statement.

"For example, it could help us triage children for intervention in the wake of a school shooting or bus crash," Lloyd says.

The study included about 1,800 young adults, most between the ages of 19 and 21, who were all former Miami-Dade public school students. They were asked whether they had experienced any of 41 adverse life experiences.

The accumulation of nonviolent experiences along with witnessing violence were significant factors in determining which people might develop PTSD after experiencing a traumatic event.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about PTSD.

SOURCE: Florida State University, news release, January 2004
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