People in affluent nations more likely to be affected by PTSD

New research has surprised researchers by indicating that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) affects people in affluent countries more than people in poorer countries.

Scientists from the UK, Australia and the Netherlands had expected that higher levels of PTSD would be experienced by poorer countries. The reasoning behind this was that people in these nations had a higher likelihood of being exposed to traumatic events, with factors such low-income, malnutrition and poor sanitation expected to have a significant impact.

However, the highest levels of PTSD were found in much more wealthy countries. This was attributed to people in these countries being less accustomed to major violence, such as the recent terrorist attacks in Europe, so when such an event occurs the shock is much more profound.

Canada was found to have the highest levels of PTSD, followed closely by Australia, New Zealand, the US and the Netherlands. Meanwhile, Nigeria, China and Romania had the lowest levels of PTSD.

Professor Chris Brewin from University College London, who was one of the authors, said: “PTSD has often been linked to something that violates your expectations. You thought you were living in a world which is basically safe, people are basically well disposed toward you, and something happens that completely turns those ideas upside down. It is thought that makes it really hard for people to get over these events.

“But if you’ve been brought up in a very different society, you may not have so many of these illusions to start with. You already see the world as a much more dangerous place and it may not be so surprising when something terrible happens.

“Everyone assumed that the citizens of countries with fewer economic advantages would similarly be at greater risk and you’d have higher rates of PTSD than in more developed countries. But the interesting thing is we found exactly the opposite is the case.”

The findings were published in the British Journal of Psychiatry.