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Am J Psychiatry. 1999 Apr;156(4):589-95.

Acute and chronic posttraumatic stress disorder in motor vehicle accident victims.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, F. Edward H├ębert School of Medicine, Bethesda, MD 20814-4799, USA.



This study reports the rates of acute and chronic posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in a suburban community study group of 122 victims of serious motor vehicle accidents and a comparison group of 42 (who had been involved in minor, non-motor-vehicle accidents) followed over 12 months.


Motor vehicle accident victims were systematically recruited and examined with comparison subjects at 1, 3, 6, 9, and 12 months after the accident. The authors used the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-III-R to assess DSM-III-R axis I disorders including PTSD.


One month after the accident, 34.4% of the motor vehicle accident victims met criteria for PTSD (versus 2.4% of the comparison subjects). Similarly, at 3 and 6 months, rates of PTSD were higher (25.2% and 18.2%) in the motor vehicle accident victims than in the comparison group. Female victims were 4.64 times more likely than male victims to have PTSD at 1 month. Victims with a history of PTSD were 8.02 times more likely at 1 month and 6.81 times more likely at 3 months to have PTSD than those without a history of PTSD. Having an axis II disorder increased the risk for PTSD at 6 months. After adjustment for a history of PTSD and potentially confounding variables, women were 4.39 times more likely than men to develop PTSD at 1 month but did not have a higher risk for chronic PTSD; at 6 months, those with an axis II disorder were at greater risk of PTSD.


Rates of PTSD are high in victims of serious motor vehicle accidents and remain high 9 months later. Female victims have an increased risk of acute but not chronic PTSD. Individuals with a history of PTSD are at risk of acute and chronic PTSD. An axis II disorder increases the risk for chronic but not acute PTSD.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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