PTSD nearly doubles risk for infections

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Having PTSD nearly doubles a person’s risk of infections, according to new research.

The study find that PTSD affects infection risks for men and women differently, having, for example, more of an effect on a woman’s risk of urinary tract infection and a man’s risk of skin infection.

“Our study adds to the growing evidence suggesting that PTSD and chronic severe stress are damaging for physical health,” says Tammy Jiang, a doctoral candidate at Boston University who led the study.

The researchers used Danish national records to look at the health histories of every Danish-born Danish citizen who received a PTSD diagnosis from 1995 through 2011, and matched each person with a comparison group of Danes of the same sex and age. While previous studies have looked at the relationship between PTSD and one or two diseases, in this study the researchers looked at the Danes’ histories of hospital care for 28 different kinds of infections.

After adjusting for other physical and mental health diagnoses and for marriage/registered partnership, the researchers found that people with PTSD were 1.8 times as likely to have any infection as those without PTSD. This ranged from being 1.3 times as likely to have meningitis, to 1.7 times as likely to have influenza, to 2.7 times as likely to have viral hepatitis.

Next, the researchers compared men and women with PTSD. A previous study found no relationship between the sex of a person with PTSD and risk of upper respiratory infection, but the new study shows that having PTSD had more of an effect on a woman’s risk of upper respiratory infection—and several other kinds of infection, most notably urinary tract infection—than a man’s risk. Having PTSD also had more of an effect on a man’s risk of certain other kinds of infection, most notably skin infection.

The story appears in the journal Epidemiology. Additional coauthors are from Boston University, Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark, the University of Vermont, and Emory University.

Source: Michelle Samuels for Boston University