Background. We examine potential sources of the sex differences in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the community.
Methods. Data were obtained from a representative sample of 2181 persons aged 18–45 years in the Detroit primary metropolitan statistical area, which is a six-county area containing more than four million residents. A random digit dialling method was used to select the sample and a computer-assisted telephone interview was used to obtain the data. DSM-IV PTSD was assessed with respect to a randomly selected trauma from the list of qualifying traumas reported by each respondent.
Results. The lifetime prevalence of exposure and the mean number of traumas were lower in females than males. The overall conditional risk of PTSD (i.e. the probability of PTSD among those exposed to a trauma) was approximately twofold higher in females than males, adjusting for the sex difference in the distribution of trauma types. The sex difference was due primarily to females' greater risk following assaultive violence. The sex difference in the avoidance and numbing symptom group following assaultive violence exceeded the sex differences in other symptom groups.
Conclusions. Future research should focus on sex differences in the response to assaultive violence, including potential explanations for females' greater probability to experience avoidance and numbing.
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