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Trauma and PTSD

Trauma and current symptoms of PTSD in a South East London Community (2013)

S. Frissa, S. Hatch, B. Gazard, SELCoH Study Team, N. Fear and M. Hotopf



Post-Traumatic Stress-Disorder (PTSD) is a mental health disorder that can develop after a traumatic event. A symptom is a sign of a disorder or disease. Symptoms which individuals with PTSD may experience include, re-living the traumatic event through nightmares and flashbacks; avoiding situations or things that remind them of the traumatic event; feeling irritable and more alert and aware of things in their environment that could make them feel anxious.

Many studies that have looked at PTSD have focused on groups such as the military. Little is known about the relationship between traumatic events and PTSD experiences in the general population. This study aimed to look at how common different traumatic events and PTSD symptoms were in the community of South East London.

How was the study conducted?

In total 1,698 adults, aged 16 years and over, from the South East London boroughs of Southwark and Lambeth, were interviewed between 2008-2010. From the information we collected, we could identify people who were experiencing PTSD symptoms, and some more detailed information about the traumatic event (e.g. type of trauma, when it occurred).

What did we find?

The results showed that 5.5% of people interviewed reported currently experiencing symptoms of PTSD. Symptoms of PTSD were high in women (6.4%), those who were unemployed (12.5%), those not working because of health reasons (18.2%) and amongst individuals who reported the lowest household income (14.8%).

Most participants (78.2%) reported having experienced trauma, and more than a third reported having experienced trauma in their life before the age of 16 years. Both, childhood and lifetime traumas were linked with current symptoms of PTSD. Individuals who reported more traumatic events were also more likely to have PTSD.

Although people who moved to the UK for asylum or political reasons were more likely to have experienced PTSD compared to non-migrants, it was surprising that they experienced fewer number of traumatic life events than the non-migrant group.


Experiencing PTSD symptoms was particularly high in the community of the two South East London boroughs that we studied. Overall, individuals who experienced more traumatic events were more like to report PTSD.

Our evidence suggests that there is a sub-group of people in the community who are more likely to experience PTSD symptoms. It is important that we are able to identify these individuals and address their needs appropriately.


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