Post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms and risk of hypertension over 22 years in a large cohort of younger and middle-aged women

Sumner, Jennifer A.; Kubzansky, Laura D.; Roberts, Andrea L.; Gilsanz, Paola; Chen, Qixuan; Winning, Ashley; Forman, John P.; Rimm, Eric B.; Koenen, Karestan C.


Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has been linked to hypertension, but most research on PTSD and hypertension is cross-sectional, and potential mediators have not been clearly identified. Moreover, PTSD is twice as common in women than in men, but understanding of the PTSD-hypertension relation in women is limited. We examined trauma exposure and PTSD symptoms in relation to incident hypertension over 22 years in 47,514 civilian women in the Nurses’ Health Study II.


We used proportional hazards models to estimate hazard ratios (HRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) for new-onset hypertension (N=15,837).


PTSD symptoms assessed with a screen were modestly associated with incident hypertension in a dose-response fashion after adjusting for potential confounders. Compared to women with no trauma exposure, women with 6–7 PTSD symptoms had the highest risk of developing hypertension (HR=1.20 [95% CI, 1.12–1.30]), followed by women with 4–5 symptoms (HR=1.17 [95% CI, 1.10–1.25]), women with 1–3 symptoms (HR=1.12 [95% CI, 1.06–1.18]), and trauma-exposed women with no symptoms (HR=1.04 [95% CI, 1.00–1.09]). Findings were maintained, although attenuated, adjusting for hypertension-relevant medications, medical risk factors, and health behaviors. Higher body mass index and antidepressant use accounted for 30% and 21% of the PTSD symptom-hypertension association.


Screening for hypertension and reducing unhealthy lifestyle factors, particularly obesity, in women with PTSD may hold promise for offsetting cardiovascular risk.


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Psychological Medicine

More About This Work

Academic Units
Center for Behavioral Cardiovascular Health
Published Here
August 26, 2017