PTSD in the elderly : the interaction between trauma and aging

Background: Because an increasingly large cohort of individuals is approaching their elderly years, there is concern about how the healthcare system will cope with the greater demands placed upon it. One area of concern is the impact of trauma and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the aged. Although several reviews have highlighted the lack of knowledge and research on the topic, there still remain gaps in the literature. Nevertheless, some recent behavioral, endocrinological and neuroimaging studies may provide new insights into the discussion. The central aims of this paper are to summarize the etiological, epidemiological and clinical aspects of PTSD, trauma, and the elderly, and to integrate this knowledge with (i) what is known about PTSD in adults, and (ii) the behavioral, hormonal and cerebral changes associated with healthy aging.

Methods: A comprehensive search was performed with ISI Web of Science and PubMed for articles pertinent to the psychology and biology of PTSD, trauma, and the elderly.

Results: There exist both significant similarities and differences between adults and elderly with PTSD concerning cognitive and biological profile. Evidence suggests that PTSD in the elderly does not follow a simple clinical trajectory.

Conclusions: PTSD in the elderly must be considered within the context of normal aging. Strong claims about an interaction between PTSD and aging are difficult to make due to sample heterogeneity, but it is clear that PTSD in this age group presents unique aspects not seen in younger cohorts. Further research must integrate their studies with the biological, psychological, and social changes already associated with the aging process.

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Leann Kimberly Lapp, Catherine Agbokou and Florian Ferreri | 2011
In: International psychogeriatrics, ISSN 1041-6102 | 23 | 6 | August | 858-868