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Sex differences in type of lifetime trauma and suicidal ideation mediated by post-traumatic stress and anxio-depressive disorders in older adults

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 December 2019

Helen-Maria Vasiliadis*
Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, University of Sherbrooke, Sherbrooke, QC, Canada Charles-Le Moyne—Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean Innovations in Health Research Center, Longueuil, QC, Canada
Catherine Lamoureux-Lamarche
Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, University of Sherbrooke, Sherbrooke, QC, Canada Charles-Le Moyne—Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean Innovations in Health Research Center, Longueuil, QC, Canada
Isabelle Pitrou
Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, University of Sherbrooke, Sherbrooke, QC, Canada Charles-Le Moyne—Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean Innovations in Health Research Center, Longueuil, QC, Canada
Djamal Berbiche
Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, University of Sherbrooke, Sherbrooke, QC, Canada Charles-Le Moyne—Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean Innovations in Health Research Center, Longueuil, QC, Canada
Correspondence should be addressed to: Helen-Maria Vasiliadis, Centre de recherche—CSIS, Université de Sherbrooke, Campus Longueuil, 150 Place Charles-Le Moyne, Longueuil, QC J4K 0A8, Canada. Phone: + 1 450 466 5000, Ext: 3701; Fax: + 1 450 670 4135. Email:



Examine the association between trauma and daily stressors, post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSS), anxio-depressive disorders, and suicidal ideation in older adults.


A cross-sectional study.

Setting and Participants:

This study included 1446 older adults recruited in primary care practices (2011–2013) and participating in Quebec’s longitudinal study on health services in the elderly.


Lifetime trauma and PTSS was assessed using the validated PTSS scale for older adults based on scores from the Impact of Events Scale-Revised, number of lifetime traumatic events and interference with daily activities. The presence of an anxio-depressive disorder was based on physician diagnoses. Path analyses were conducted to determine the pathways between trauma, daily stressors, PTSS and anxio-depressive disorders and SI. Analyses were conducted on the overall sample and by sex.


Seven percent and 12% reported SI and PTSS. In males, traumas of sexual assault, violence/stalked, war/combat/imprisonment and daily hassles were directly associated with SI. In females, daily hassles were directly associated with SI. In males, a number of traumas were associated with SI through the mediating effect of PTSS and anxio-depressive disorders. In females, PTSS but not anxio-depressive disorders mediated the relationship between traumas and daily stressors, and suicidal ideation.


The effects of lifetime traumas persist well into older age. Traumas leading to SI differ between males and females as do the pathways and comorbidity with PTSS and anxio-depressive disorders. This highlights differences in etiologic patterns, which may be used in primary care practice to identify symptom profiles of older persons at risk of suicidal ideation.

Original Research Article
© International Psychogeriatric Association 2019

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