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Am J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2008 Oct;16(10):853-6. doi: 10.1097/01.JGP.0000310785.36837.85. Epub 2008 May 12.

Trauma exposure and posttraumatic stress disorder in the elderly: a community prevalence study.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, University of Melbourne, Australian Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health, Heidelberg, Victoria, Australia.



Little prevalence data exist on trauma exposure and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the elderly. The authors examined lifetime exposure to trauma and 12-month PTSD in a large community sample.


Data were drawn from the Australian National Survey of Mental Health. Of the total 10,641 participants, 1,792 were over the age of 65. The Composite International Diagnostic Interview provided trauma exposure and diagnostic status.


A curvilinear pattern of lifetime exposure to trauma across the lifespan was obtained for women, whereas men showed a linear increase. This difference was explained by combat exposure. PTSD prevalence reduced with age and participants over 65 reported negligible rates. Around 10% of the elderly reported reexperiencing symptoms.


PTSD rates are lower in older age cohorts, although reasons for this are unclear. With 10% reporting reexperiencing symptoms associated with past events, however, greater awareness of treatments that target traumatic memories may be beneficial.

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