The British Journal of Psychiatry
Age of traumatisation as a predictor of post-traumatic stress disorder or major depression in young women
Andreas Maercker, Tanja Michael, Lydia Fehm, Eni S. Becker, Jürgen Margraf


Background Findings in developmental psychopathology suggest that traumatisation in childhood may increase the risk of both post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and major depressive disorder, whereas traumatisation in adolescence is more likely to lead to elevated PTSD risk.

Aims To estimate the impact of traumatisation in childhood or adolescence in a community sample.

Method A representative sample of 1966 young women from Dresden aged 18–45 years were interviewed for occurrence of traumatic events and the onset of PTSD and major depression. The sample was subdivided into a childhood trauma group (trauma up to age 12 years) and an adolescent trauma group (trauma from age 13 years).

Results A quarter of all participants reported traumatic events meeting the DSM AI criterion. In the childhood group conditional risks for PTSD and major depressive disorder were 17.0% and 23.3%, respectively, compared with risks of 13.3% and 6.5%, respectively, in the adolescent group. In 29% of those with PTSD, major depression was also present.

Conclusions The riskof developing major depressive disorder after traumatisation in childhood is approximately equal to the risk of developing PTSD. After age 13 years, the risk of PTSD is greater than the risk of major depression after traumatisation.

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