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Long-term effects of lifetime trauma exposure in a rural community sample

Handley, T.; Kelly, B.; Lewin, T.; Coleman, C.; Stain, H.J.; Weaver, N.; Inder, K.J.

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T. Handley

B. Kelly

T. Lewin

C. Coleman

H.J. Stain

N. Weaver

K.J. Inder


Background This study examines the long-term outcomes of lifetime trauma exposure, including factors that contribute to the development of PTSD, in a sample of rural adults. Methods In 623 rural community residents, lifetime trauma exposure, PTSD, other psychiatric disorders and lifetime suicidal ideation were assessed using the World Mental Health Composite International Diagnostic Interview. Logistic regressions were used to examine relationships between potentially traumatic events (PTEs) and lifetime PTSD and other diagnoses. Results 78.2 % of participants reported at least on PTE. Rates were broadly comparable with Australian national data: the most commonly endorsed events were unexpected death of a loved one (43.7 %); witnessing injury or death (26.3 %); and life-threatening accident (19.3 %). While the mean age of the sample was 55 years, the mean age of first trauma exposure was 19 years. The estimated lifetime rate of PTSD was 16.0 %. Events with the strongest association with PTSD were physical assault and unexpected death of a loved one. Current functioning was lowest among those with current PTSD, with this group reporting elevated psychological distress, higher mental health service use, a greater number of comorbidities, and lower perceived social support. Respondents with a past PTE but no PTSD history were generally similar in terms of their current wellbeing to those with no lifetime PTE. Conclusions PTEs may have diverse psychological and social consequences beyond the development of PTSD. Ensuring that adequate support services are available in rural areas, particularly in the period immediately following a PTE, may reduce the long-term impact of traumatic events.


Handley, T., Kelly, B., Lewin, T., Coleman, C., Stain, H., Weaver, N., & Inder, K. (2015). Long-term effects of lifetime trauma exposure in a rural community sample. BMC Public Health, 15, Article 1176.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Nov 13, 2015
Publication Date Nov 25, 2015
Deposit Date Jan 13, 2016
Publicly Available Date Feb 3, 2016
Journal BMC Public Health
Publisher BioMed Central
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 15
Article Number 1176
Keywords Post-traumatic stress disorder, Trauma, Rural mental health, Psychosocial characteristics.


Published Journal Article (503 Kb)

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Copyright Statement
© Handley et al. 2015 This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://​creativecommons.​org/​licenses/​by/​4.​0/​), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver (http://​creativecommons.​org/​publicdomain/​zero/​1.​0/​) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

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