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Review Suggests PTSD Negatively Impacts Physical Health but More Research Needed


SUMMARY:

  • This literature review suggests that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can have negative effects on physical health, but evidence regarding its association with specific physical disorders is lacking.
  • Seven studies were found that examined the relationship between PTSD and certain physical disorders. For example, evidence suggests a significant association between PTSD and musculoskeletal disorders, especially participant report of arthritis, in the general population – but not in Veterans.
  • There also was an association between PTSD and digestive disorders, particularly ulcers, among non-Veterans. The rest of the associations were either found in single studies or are conflicting, particularly in regard to diabetes, congestive heart failure, and stroke.
  • Authors suggest that large, prospective epidemiological trials are needed to examine the relationship between PTSD and physical illness.

BACKGROUND:
There is growing concern that Veterans of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan are at increased risk of PTSD, and little is known about its impact on short- or long-term physical health and the use of healthcare services. In this systematic review, investigators searched case reports, comparative studies, meta-analyses, and review articles published between 1981 and 2008. The search yielded only seven studies that examined the relationship between PTSD and specific physical-health diagnoses. These seven studies were all published between 1999 and 2006; four studies focused on the general population and three studies on Veterans (Vietnam and WWII).

LIMITATIONS:

  • Methodology varied across the different studies; e.g., some did not have a comparison group, while others did not control for confounding factors such as demographics or comorbid disorders.
  • The total number of subjects with PTSD and specific physical disorders was low in some studies, but researchers did find significant associations.

AUTHOR/FUNDING INFORMATION:
Drs. Qureshi and Kunik are part of HSR&D’s Houston Center for Quality of Care and Utilization Studies.


PubMed Logo Qureshi S, Pyne J, Magruder K, Schulz P, and Kunik, M. The Link between Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Physical Cormorbidities: A Systematic Review. Psychiatric Quarterly June 2009;80(2):87-97.

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What are HSR&D Publication Briefs?

HSR&D requires notification by HSR&D-funded investigators about all articles accepted for publication. These journal articles are reviewed by HSR&D and publication briefs or summaries are written for a select number of articles that are then forwarded to VHA Central Office leadership to keep them informed about important findings or information. Articles to be summarized are selected by HSR&D based on timeliness of the findings, interest of leadership, or potential impact on the organization. Publication briefs are written for only a small number of HSR&D published articles. Visit the HSR&D citations database for a complete listing of HSR&D articles and presentations.