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Psychiatry. 2008 Fall;71(3):234-45. doi: 10.1521/psyc.2008.71.3.234.

Ethnic/Racial diversity and posttraumatic distress in the acute care medical setting.

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Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington 98104, USA.


Recent commentary has advocated for epidemiological investigation as a foundational science for understanding disparities in the delivery of mental health care and for the development of early trauma-focused interventions. Few acute care investigations have examined the diversity of ethnic/racial heritages or compared variations in early posttraumatic distress in representative samples of injured trauma survivors. Hospitalized injury survivors at two United States level I trauma centers were randomly approached in order to document linguistic and ethnic/racial diversity. Approximately 12% of patients approached were non-English speaking with 16 languages represented. English speaking, inpatients were screened for posttraumatic stress disorder, peritraumatic dissociative, and depressive symptoms. For 269 English speaking study participants, ethnic/racial group status was clearly categorized into one group for 72%, two groups for 25%, and three groups for 3% of participants. Regression analyses that adjusted for relevant clinical and demographic characteristics revealed that relative to whites, patients from American Indian, African American, Hispanic, and Asian heritages demonstrated significant elevations in one or more posttraumatic symptom clusters. A remarkable diversity of heritages was identified, and posttraumatic distress was elevated in ethnic/racial minority patients. Policy-relevant clinical investigations that combine evidence-based treatments, bilingual/bicultural care-management strategies, and support for trauma center organizational capacity building may be required in order to enhance the quality of mental health care for diverse injured trauma survivors.

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