NEW YORK (Reuters Health) Jun 23 - Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is not unusual in elderly subjects, and a lifetime diagnosis of PTSD is associated with symptoms of depression and anxiety in this population, according to findings published in the May issue of the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

Dr. Carsten Spitzer, of Universitatsklinikum Hamburg-Eppendorf in Hamburg, Germany and colleagues examined the risk of trauma exposure and subsequent PTSD in 3170 German adults.

The participants were classified as young (44 years and younger), middle-aged (between 45 and 64 years), and elderly (65 years and older) and were assessed with the PTSD module of the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV and the Composite International Diagnostic-Screener.

Overall, 1730 subjects (54.6%) reported at least one traumatic experience. The odds for trauma exposure were almost four times higher in the elderly compared to the younger age groups. Elderly subjects also had a significantly higher mean number of traumatic experiences (2.06) than middle-aged subjects (1.31) and young adults (1.34).

The risk for trauma exposure in general was significantly higher in elderly men vs elderly women (p = 0.012). There were no gender differences in PTSD prevalence rates, however. Elderly subjects who had been diagnosed with PTSD had significantly higher odds for having any psychiatric syndrome than those without PTSD (OR = 9.10; p < 0.001). Depression and anxiety were the most common conditions.

"The results of the present survey indicate that trauma exposure is very common among older adults in the community and that PTSD is a prevalent sequel of such exposure," Dr. Spitzer and colleagues conclude. They call for routine assessments of trauma and post-traumatic stress during examinations of elderly patients.

J Clin Psychiatry 2008;69:693-700.