Posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms among trauma-exposed adolescents from low- and middle-income countries

This recent study by the ICMH – SG (Stupar et al., 2021) assessed the types of traumatic events experienced and the presence and predictors of PTSD symptoms in adolescents from ten low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) exposed to traumatic events in the preceding year. Adolescents (12-18 yrs old) were recruited in Brazil, Bulgaria, Croatia, Indonesia, Montenegro, Nigeria, the Palestinian Territories, the Philippines, Portugal, Romania, and Serbia. A sample (n = 3370) with a history of traumatic events is assessed for PTSD symptoms using the UCLA PTSD Reaction Index for DSM-5 (PTSD – RI – 5) modified to ensure cultural acceptance. We showed that nearly every third adolescent living in LMICs might have some PTSD symptoms after experiencing a traumatic event. In contrast, almost one in ten might have sufficient symptoms for a complete DSM-5 PTSD diagnosis. We also found that younger adolescents and those with a history of exposure to war or having been forced to have sex or with more severe PTSD symptoms (especially avoidance) were at a greater risk of having PTSD. Thus, there is a need for collaboration between the health and social care services sectors to devise joint policies and care pathways and suggest a stepped care approach to reduce strain on the limited health care services available in LMICs.

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