Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Gastrointestinal Disorders in the Danish Population

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Abstract

Background:

Evidence for the association between posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and gastrointestinal (GI) disorders is mixed, owing in part to methodologic differences across studies. Furthermore, studies which have combined GI disorders or symptoms for examination as one overall category may potentially obscure associations between PTSD and individual GI diagnoses.

Methods:

This nationwide cohort study examined the incidence of all major nonmalignant GI disorders in patients with a prior PTSD diagnosis (n = 4,076), compared with the general population incidence from 1995 to 2013, using Danish medical registry data. We examined differences by sex, age, marital status, psychiatric and somatic comorbidity, and follow-up time. Risks, standardized incidence rates (SIRs), and confidence intervals (95% CIs) were calculated.

Results:

Risk of any GI disorder among PTSD patients was 25% (95% CI: 21%, 29%); the SIR for any GI disorder was 1.8 (95% CI: 1.7, 2.0). Risk and SIRs varied by disorder (e.g., no association with diverticula of the intestines [SIR: 1.1, 95% CI: 0.83, 1.5]; stronger association with peptic ulcer, site unspecified [SIR: 3.3, 95% CI: 1.8, 5.5]). Stratified analyses revealed that some associations were stronger for persons ages 16–39 or unmarried at PTSD diagnosis, persons with comorbid psychiatric diagnoses, and in the year following PTSD diagnosis.

Conclusions:

This study documents associations between clinician-diagnosed PTSD and all major nonmalignant GI disorders in an unselected nationwide cohort with long follow-up. Differences in associations across GI disorders and important modifiers may account for previous conflicting research findings.

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