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Approved Research

Assessing psychological trauma and physical health outcomes: focusing on exposure patterns, disease heterogeneity, the interaction between gene-trauma-environment, and resilience

Principal Investigator: Dr Sun Jae Jung
Approved Research ID: 70227
Approval date: October 18th 2021

Lay summary

Our research question aims to find out whether trauma and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) provoke cardiovascular disease and cognitive decline. Especially, we want to test if people with PTSD gene and brain structure react to which type of trauma and social condition. Across different types of trauma, we want to find similar trauma groups and predict the later health effect. To distinguish trauma type, 16 items related to past trauma experience (Field ID 20487-20491, 20521-20531) will be grouped pre-defined with the concept from previous literature.

In the U.K., about 3% of the adult population is known to have PTSD. We hypothesized that people with more severe trauma and PTSD symptoms would have a more harmful effect on cardiovascular and cognitive health. It is already known that people with PTSD frequently report cardiovascular diseases, and this was reported from observational data, which is hard to tell the cause and effect, absolutely. To fully understand the relationship, we need to understand more about the biological and behavioral actions that occur. Similarly, stroke, myocardial infarction, thromboembolism, and dementia were frequently reported among people with PTSD symptoms. It is already known that certain cardiovascular diseases and cognitive problems, including Alzheimer's dementia, share common pathways in disease development.

There are many kinds of trauma, the initial exposure for PTSD, including violence from family members, natural disasters, car accidents, and war. However, it is unclear whether which type of trauma brings the worst health results after experiencing PTSD. Therefore, this study aimed to find specific trauma experience patterns and assess the different associations with later cardiovascular/ cognitive function. This study will be continued in 3 years for the analysis, interpretation, and writing of papers.

When we complete this study, it will contribute significantly to understand the physical aftermath of PTSD, including cardiovascular diseases and cognitive decline. It will also help determine which combination of given factors will bring a more severe form of cardiovascular/cognitive diseases. It will help to find the best preventive intervention among PTSD patients. Additionally, this study will make it possible to predict the risk of cardiovascular diseases and cognitive decline, which will also make it possible to distinguish people who need the help most urgently.