PTSD: Canada Has The Highest Rate, Plus Eight More Surprising Facts

9.2 percent of Canadians will suffer from PTSD in their lifetimes.
Anyone can develop PTSD at any age

According to the National Centre for PTSD about seven or eight out of every 100 people will experience PTSD at some point in their lives. 

Women are more likely to experience PTSD

PTSD affects twice as many women as men. In the United States, almost 10 percent of women develop PTSD sometime in their lives, compared to four percent of men. A factor in this discrepancy could be linked to sexual assault. Women are more likely to experience sexual assault than men and sexual assault is more likely to cause PTSD than other events. Some research has also shown that sex hormones affect memory and learning which are critical to the development of PTSD. 

PTSD can happen despite never having directly experienced trauma

By definition, PTSD always involves exposure to actual or threatened death, serious injury or sexual violence. But you don’t need to experience the event directly or even witness it to get PTSD. Learning that a traumatic event occurred to a close family member or friend can also lead to PTSD. So can experiencing repeated or extreme exposure to details of such an event — as can be the case for first responders, journalists, police officers and other professions.

Not everyone to experience a traumatic event gets PTSD

Lots of people don’t. Risk factors that contribute to the likelihood of developing PTSD include: exposure to childhood trauma, presence of other mental health problems like anxiety or depression, lack of a good support network and having biological relatives with mental health problems. Some researchers are calling on governments to vet personnel in the armed forces for mental health vulnerabilities before they leave for combat to avoid problems down the road. 

PTSD symptoms vary from person to person

People who go through the exact same traumatic event can experience very different symptoms of PTSD. Although all PTSD is caused by long-term stress and hyperarousal of the primitive brain, the symptoms depend on a variety of factors including personal history, world beliefs, coping strategies and level of support.

Sexual assault is more likely to cause PTSD than most other traumas

Other common events that cause PTSD include: combat exposure, childhood abuse and physical attack.

SCENE FROM THE FILM: Stan Fisher and Ute Lawrence, who suffered from PTSD after a horrific car accident, say time can be an effective healer.
PTSD symptoms don’t always appear immediately after a traumatic event

Sometimes it takes months or even years for PTSD to surface. A study of New Yorkers after 911 showed that symptoms can surface up to two years later and may even be triggered by a subsequent stressful event such a job loss. 

Vicarious trauma from PTSD can be passed from parent to child or from client to trauma worker

The signs and symptoms of vicarious PTSD are similar but may be less intense. This is also known as "compassion fatigue" or "burnout." 

Disadvantaged people are more likely to suffer from PTSD

People who suffer from social, economic or educational disadvantage or racism within a given country are more likely to get PTSD than those who don’t.

People in rich countries are more likely to experience PTSD

According to a recent study, people in rich countries are more likely to suffer from PTSD than people in poorer countries. It seems paradoxical, but PTSD is linked to something that violates your expectations. If you live in a part of the world that is basically safe and something happens to turn those ideas upside down, it might be harder to get over. 

Canada has the highest incidence of PTSD in 24 countries studied

The same study found that Canada had the highest prevalence of PTSD of the 24 countries included in the study – 9.2 percent of Canadians will suffer from PTSD in their lifetimes. The Netherlands, Australia and the US followed. Nigeria, China and Romania had the lowest levels.

For more, watch PTSD: Beyond Trauma on The Nature of Things.

Available on CBC Gem

PTSD: Beyond Trauma

Nature of Things