Jun. 26 2014

Faculty at Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health are examining a range of issues on post- traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Most recently, Sandro Galea, MD, DrPH, chair of the Department of Epidemiology, led an Institute of Medicine (IOM) Committee and report which found that the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) do not measure the effectiveness of treatment of PTSD, calling into question millions of dollars spent on programs to improve service members’ mental health. The IOM Committee and report also showed that neither agency has kept pace with growing demand for PTSD treatment. Read more


A study published this month by Mailman School epidemiologists Deborah Hasin, PhD, Steven Stellman, PhD, and Katherine Keyes, PhD, with the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene looked at the long-term health effects of the World Trade Center disaster. The researchers examined the relationship between the intensity of 9/11-related exposures and the role of PTSD and frequent binge drinking among enrollees in the World Trade Center Health Registry five years after the event. Participants included 41,284 Lower Manhattan residents, workers, passersby, and rescue/recovery workers aged 18 or older who did not have a PTSD diagnosis prior to 9/11. Among these workers, frequent binge drinking was significantly elevated among those with PTSD (14.8%) compared to those without PTSD (6.3%). Read more.

In the first study to look at the relationship between PTSD and obesity over time, Karestan Koenen, PhD, found that women with PTSD gain weight more rapidly and are more likely to be overweight or obese than women without the disorder. Read more in JAMA Psychiatry.

Research by Dr. Steven Stellman, PhD, and colleagues found an increased heart disease risk among enrollees of the World Trade Health Registry with 9/11 related PTSD, mainly among persons who performed rescue/recovery work in response to the disaster. Read more in the Journal of the American Heart Association

Pre-war vulnerability, including childhood physical abuse or a family history of substance abuse, is just as important as severity of combat-related trauma in predicting whether veterans’ symptoms of PTSD will be long-lasting. Researchers at the Mailman School and the New York State Psychiatric Institute found that while traumatic experiences during combat predicted the onset of PTSD, in Vietnam veterans, pre-war vulnerabilities were equally important for predicting whether the syndrome persisted. Read more.

A study of women newly diagnosed with breast cancer found that one in four women reported symptoms consistent with PTSD shortly after diagnosis, with increased risk among black and Asian women. “The study is one of the first to evaluate the course of PTSD after a diagnosis of breast cancer,” said Mailman School lead author Alfred I. Neugut, MD, PhD.  Read more in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.