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How Common Is PTSD?

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can occur after you have been through a traumatic event. A trauma is a shocking and dangerous event that you see or that happens to you. During this type of event, you think that your life or others' lives are in danger.

Going through a trauma is not rare. Many people experience at least one trauma in their lives. Women are more likely to experience sexual assault and child sexual abuse. Men are more likely to experience accidents, physical assault, combat, or disaster, or to witness death or injury.

PTSD can happen to anyone who has been through a trauma. It is not a sign of weakness. A number of things can increase the chance that you will develop PTSD, which are not under your control. For example, if you were directly exposed to the trauma or injured, you are more likely to develop PTSD.

Here are some facts that are true in the U.S.:

  • About 7 or 8 out of every 100 people will have PTSD at some point in their lives.

  • About 8 million adults have PTSD during a given year. This is only a small portion of those who have gone through a trauma.

  • About 10 of every 100 women (or 10%) develop PTSD sometime in their lives compared with about 4 of every 100 men (or 4%).

PTSD and the military

When you serve in the military, you may see combat or experience training accidents. You may have been on missions that exposed you to horrible and life-threatening experiences. These types of events can lead to PTSD.

The number of Veterans with PTSD varies by service era:

  • Operations Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom, and New Dawn. Between 11%-20% of these Veterans have PTSD in a given year.

  • Gulf War (Operation Desert Storm). About 12% have PTSD in a given year.

  • Vietnam War. About 15% were currently diagnosed with PTSD at the time of a study in the late 1980s, the National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study (NVVRS). It is estimated that 30% have had PTSD in their lifetime.

Other factors in a combat situation can add more stress to an already difficult situation. This may lead to PTSD and other mental health problems. These factors include:

  • What you do in the war

  • The politics around the war

  • Where the war is fought

  • The type of enemy you face

Military Sexual Trauma and PTSD

Another cause of PTSD in the military can be military sexual trauma (MST). This is any sexual harassment or sexual assault that occurs while you are in the military. MST happens to both men and women and can occur during peacetime, training, or war.

Among Veterans who use VA healthcare:

  • About 23% reported sexual assault while in the military

  • About 55% of women and 38% of men have experienced sexual harassment while in the military

There are many more male Veterans than there are female Veterans. So, even though MST is more common among women Veterans, over half of all Veterans who report MST are men.

Read more about Military Sexual Trauma.

Author: StayWell Custom Communications
Last Annual Review Date: 2/1/2018
Copyright © The StayWell Company, LLC. except where otherwise noted.
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