While we know that PTSD is about twice as common in women as men, most PTSD research has focused on PTSD in men, most commonly male veterans. A recent study, reviewed in Medscape, evaluated data from 14,029 women participating in the Nurses’ Health Study II. Lifetime trauma exposure and PTSD symptoms were assessed in 2008, and cognitive function was assessed six to eight years later, when the average age of the women was 49 to 69 years.
Compared to women with no trauma exposure, women with probable PTSD performed significantly worse with respect to psychomotor speed and attention, learning and working memory, and overall cognition. More significant PTSD symptoms were associated with more significant cognitive deficits. The strongest associations were observed in women with depression in combination with PTSD.
The authors found that for women with the most severe PTSD symptoms, the cognitive decline was similar to that observed after four years of aging. Some big questions remain. Are these changes in cognitive functioning permanent? Does treatment — of PTSD or depression — improve these cognitive deficits? Are there interventions which could prevent or minimize the impact of PTSD on cognition?
This research was presented at the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) Conference 2017 (Abstract 340R) on April 7, 2017.
Ruta Nonacs, MD PhD
PTSD in Women Linked to Cognitive Impairment (Medscape – free subscription)