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As Iraq vets return with increasing incidence of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) health care use and costs have increased. Most PTSD research has focused on male veterans and female assault victims–leaving the impact on other sectors of the population uncertain.

Researchers from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) and Boston Medical Center (BMC) interviewed a sample of primary care patients to find the prevalence of traumatic exposure to find incidents of PTSD, major depression, substance dependence, and chronic pain.

Among the participants researchers found:

  • 80% had one or more trauma exposures.
  • Exposure to trauma was significantly higher in males.
  • Males exposed to trauma were more likely to be single, have substance dependence, and depressed.
  • The trauma exposed patients had more mental health visits than those not exposed to trauma.

When those diagnosed with PTSD were compared to those without PTSD, researchers found:

  • 22% of the study’s participants were currently diagnosed with PTSD.
  • PTSD patients were significantly more likely to be female.
  • Have an annual income of $20,000 or less.
  • To also suffer from substance abuse and depression.
  • PTSD participants also had more hospitalizations and mental health visits.

Among urban primary care patients, researchers found:

  • PTSD is associated with greater health care use for both mental health visits and hospitalizations.
  • Trauma exposure by itself was not associate with increased health care utilization–apart from mental health visits.

Researchers conclude that PTSD has a cost beyond mental health symptoms; it may be on the pathway between trauma experiences and negative health consequences.

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