Historical and regional particularities in the prevalence of traumatic events and posttraumatic stress dis-order in East and West Germany
Background: Epidemiological research on the prevalence of traumatic events and PTSD has shown that there are significant differences between countries, due to their different history and socialization processes. In the case of Germany, this is particularly relevant. Germany was divided into two states from 1949 to 1990. This study examines the prevalence of traumatic events and PTSD in the formerly divided East and West Germany.
Methods: For the prevalence of traumatic events, we used data from four representative surveys (years 2005, 2007, 2008, and 2016) with a total of N = 9,200 respondents. For the analyses of PTSD prevalence, we used data from three representative surveys (years 2005, 2007, 2008) with a total of N = 6676 respondents. We compared different birth cohorts, persons living in the former West vs. East Germany, and the application of different diagnostic criteria using a chi-square test.
Results: The overall one-month prevalence rate for PTSD was 3.4% (3.0% for men and 3.8% for women). We found significant differences in the occurrence of traumatic events between genders, different age cohorts as well as between people who live in East and West Germany. Significant differences in the prevalence of PTSD can only be observed for different age cohorts. Most of the age effects are due to traumatic events related to World War II (WWII). Prevalence rates for PTSD were higher when the diagnostic criterions of the DSM-V were applied compared to the criterions of the DSM-IV.
Conclusions: Our data suggests that socio-political factors may need to be considered when accounting for differences in occurrence rates of traumatic events, but not for prevalence rates of PTSD, between East and West Germany. People who have experienced WW II have a higher risk of suffering from PTSD. Future epidemiological trauma research should take historical and regional peculiarities of countries into account.