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Trauma and victims: epidemiology of post-traumatic stress disorder

  • Giovanni de Girolamo (a1) and Elisabetta Marchiori (a2)

Summary

Objectives - To present a comprehensive review of the studies assessing the frequency of PTSD in the general population, in clinical populations and among subjects at risk. Design - An extensive search was made using the Excerpta Medica Psychiatry CD-ROM 1980-1993 (October). Using post-traumatic stress disorder as a key word, a total of 1,057 papers published in this timespan were retrieved. A further search was made using the same key word with MEDLINE CD-ROM 1988-1993. A manual search was also performed for all issues of the Journal of Traumatic Stress. Results - A total of 135 studies meeting inclusion criteria were selected for this review. Almost two thirds (n = 86, 64%) of these studies were carried out in the United States; only 8 (6%) studies have been carried out in developed countries. The sample size ranges from a low of 11 subjects up to a high of 22,463 subjects. The mean sample size is 500 and the median is 108. In terms of assessment methods, in one third (n = 45, 33%) of the studies the investigators used a PTSD symptom checklist (either self- administered or administered by a clinician), based on DSM criteria, to generate a PTSD diagnosis. In more than in one third of the studies (n = 44, 33%) of the studies, a structured interview was administered (e.g., the DIS, the SCID, the SADS), while in the remaining surveys the diagnostic evaluation was based either on an un- structured clinical assessment or on the administration of other specific assessment instruments (e.g., M-PTSD, IES, SCL-90-R or others). In 77 studies (57%) the investigators based their assessment on DSM-III diagnostic criteria for PTSD, whereas in 55 studies (41 %) DSM-III-R criteria were employed. Prevalence rates are discussed separately for the different population groups. Conclusions - There has been a remarkable increase in the number and quality of epidemiological studies on PTSD over the past decade. A substantial amount of information is now available about the frequency of PTSD among different population groups and among at risk subjects, and about risk factors, common symptom patterns, and natural history of this disorder. However, a number of important limitations of these studies are to be noted and should be addressed by future research efforts.

Scopo - Presentare una esaustiva review degli studi riguardanti l'epidemiologia del DPTS condotti nella popolazione generale, tra i soggetti a rischio, e, infine, tra gruppi clinicamente selezionati. Disegno - Attraverso Excepta Medica Psychiatry CD-ROM 1980-1993 (ottobre), utilizzando come parola chiave «Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder», sono stati identificati 1.057 articoli pubblicati nel periodo considerate Sono stati anche consultati altri data base della letteratura medica (MEDLINE CD-ROM 1988-1993); è stata quindi operata una ricerca manuale su tutti i numeri del Journal of Traumatic Stress. Risultati - In totale, 135 lavori che hanno soddisfatto i criteri di inclusione prescelti sono stati inclusi nella review. I due terzi (n = 86, 64%) di queste ricerche sono state condotte negli USA. Solo 8 (6%) sono le indagini effettivamente realizzate nei paesi del Terzo Mondo. L'ampiezza del campione varia da un minimo di 11 soggetti, numero riscontrato in due studi, sino ad un massimo di 22.436, per un campione medio di 500 e mediano di 108. Per quanto attiene ai metodi di valutazione, in un terzo degli studi (n = 45, 33%), i ricercatori hanno impiegato un questionario (auto- o etero- somministrato). In un altro terzo delle ricerche elencate (n = 44, 33%) e stata somministrata un'intervista strutturata (la DIS, la SCID, o la SADS), mentre nei rimanenti studi la valutazione diagnostica si è basata o su una procedura clinica non strutturata, o sulla somministrazione di altri strumenti specifici dai quali è possibile inferire una diagnosi di DPTS (M-PTSD, IES, SCL-90-R,o pochi altri). In 77 studi (57%) i ricercatori hanno basato la loro valutazione sui criteri diagnostici propri del DSM-III, mentre in altri 55 (41%) su quelli del DSM-III-R. La prevalenza del DPTS e analizzata quindi separatamente per le diverse popolazioni studiate. Conclusioni - Nell'arco di soli 13 anni, a partire cioe dalla definizione di criteri diagnostici operazionali ben definiti per il DPTS, sono stati condotti numerosi studi volti ad indagare la prevalenza, i fattori di rischio, la storia naturale, il decorso e l' esito di questo disturbo tra campioni diversi di popolazioni a rischio; inoltre, anche il livello qualitativo di queste ricerche, per quanto attiene alia sofisticazione metodologica, si è accresciuto sensibilmente in un tempo tutto sommato breve. Molte aree, pero', restano tuttora inesplorate, ed inoltre appare imperativo avviare ricerche estensive tra le popolazioni dei paesi in via di sviluppo, maggiormente esposte a disastri naturali o provocati dall'uomo.

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Corresponding author

Indirizzo per la corrispondenza: Dr. G. de Girolamo, Servizio di Salute Mentale, Azienda USL Città di Bologna, Viale Pepoli 5, 40123 Bologna. Fax (+39) 051-6492322

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Trauma and victims: epidemiology of post-traumatic stress disorder

  • Giovanni de Girolamo (a1) and Elisabetta Marchiori (a2)

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