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Psychosom Med. 2001 Jul-Aug;63(4):585-94.

A meta-analytic examination of basal cardiovascular activity in posttraumatic stress disorder.

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National Center for PTSD-Behavioral Science Division, Boston VAMC, and Boston University School of Medicine, Massachusetts 02131-4817, USA.



The objective of this meta-analytic study was to determine whether individuals with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have higher levels of basal cardiovascular activity relative to comparable groups of individuals without PTSD.


Meta-analytic data methods were applied to 34 studies that gathered indicators of basal cardiovascular activity including: heart rate (HR), systolic blood pressure, and diastolic blood pressure on subjects diagnosed with PTSD and two types of comparison groups. In total, cardiovascular measures were analyzed for 2670 subjects across all studies.


Results indicate that individuals with a current PTSD diagnosis have higher resting HR relative to both trauma-exposed individuals without a PTSD diagnosis and non-trauma-exposed individuals. The results also suggest that PTSD is associated with elevations in blood pressure; however, the effect sizes were smaller in magnitude than those obtained for heart rate. A subset analysis revealed that the effect sizes for comparisons on basal HR were greatest in studies with the most chronic PTSD samples.


The meta-analysis supports previous qualitative reviews, finding a positive association between PTSD and basal cardiovascular activity. The discussion addresses possible mechanisms of action and the health-related implications of these findings.

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