Background: Understanding the course of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and the factors that impact this is essential to inform decisions about when and for whom screening and intervention are likely to be beneficial. Objective: To provide meta-analytic evidence of the course of recovery from PTSD in the first year following trauma, and the factors that influence that recovery. Method: We conducted a meta-analysis of observational studies of adult PTSD prevalence which included at least two assessments within the first 12 months following trauma exposure, examining prevalence statistics through to 2 years post-trauma. We examined trauma intentionality (intentional or non-intentional), PTSD assessment method (clinician or self-report), sample sex distribution, and age as moderators of PTSD prevalence over time. Results: We identified 78 eligible studies including 16,484 participants. Pooled prevalence statistics indicated that over a quarter of individuals presented with PTSD at 1 month post-trauma, with this proportion reducing by a third between 1 and 3 months. Beyond 3 months, any prevalence changes were detected over longer intervals and were small in magnitude. Intentional trauma, younger age, and female sex were associated with higher PTSD prevalence at 1 month. In addition, higher proportions of females, intentional trauma exposure, and higher baseline PTSD prevalence were each associated with larger reductions in prevalence over time. Conclusions: Recovery from PTSD following acute trauma exposure primarily occurs in the first 3 months post-trauma. Screening measures and intervention approaches offered at 3 months may better target persistent symptoms than those conducted prior to this point. HIGHLIGHTS: PTSD rates in the immediate aftermath of trauma exposure decline from 27% at 1 month to 18% at 3 months post-trauma, showing significant spontaneous recovery. Problems appear to stabilize after 3 months. Screening/intervention for PTSD at 3 months post-trauma is indicated.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Psychiatry and Mental health