There is accumulating evidence for a link between trauma exposure, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and diminished health status. To assess PTSD-related biological burden, we measured biological factors that comprise metabolic syndrome, an important established predictor of morbidity and mortality, as a correlate of long-term health risk in PTSD.
We analyzed clinical data from 253 male and female veterans, corresponding to five factors linked to metabolic syndrome (systolic and diastolic blood pressure, waist-to-hip ratio and fasting measures of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, serum triglycerides and plasma glucose concentration). Clinical cut-offs were defined for each biological parameter based on recommendations from the World Health Organization and the National Cholesterol Education Program. Controlling for relevant variables including sociodemographic variables, alcohol/substance/nicotine use and depression, we examined the impact of PTSD on metabolic syndrome using a logistic regression model.
Two-fifths (40%) of the sample met criteria for metabolic syndrome. Of those with PTSD ( n = 139), 43% met criteria for metabolic syndrome. The model predicted metabolic syndrome well (-2 log likelihood = 316.650, chi-squared = 23.731, p = 0.005). Veterans with higher severity of PTSD were more likely to meet diagnostic criteria for metabolic syndrome (Wald = 4.76, p = 0.03).