Data were obtained on the general population epidemiology of DSM-III-R posttraumatic
stress disorder (PTSD), including information on estimated life-time prevalence, the
kinds of traumas most often associated with PTSD, sociodemographic correlates, the
comorbidity of PTSD with other lifetime psychiatric disorders, and the duration of
an index episode.
Modified versions of the DSM-III-R PTSD module from the Diagnostic Interview Schedule
and of the Composite International Diagnostic Interview were administered to a representative
national sample of 5877 persons aged 15 to 54 years in the part II subsample of the
National Comorbidity Survey.
The estimated lifetime prevalence of PTSD is 7.8%. Prevalence is elevated among women
and the previously married. The traumas most commonly associated with PTSD are combat
exposure and witnessing among men and rape and sexual molestation among women. Posttraumatic
stress disorder is strongly comorbid with other lifetime DSM-III-R disorders. Survival
analysis shows that more than one third of people with an index episode of PTSD fail
to recover even after many years.
Posttraumatic stress disorder is more prevalent than previously believed, and is often
persistent. Progress in estimating age-at-onset distributions, cohort effects, and
the conditional probabilities of PTSD from different types of trauma will require
future epidemiologic studies to assess PTSD for all lifetime traumas rather than for
only a small number of retrospectively reported "most serious" traumas.