Current Psychiatry Reports

, 20:114 | Cite as

Chromosomes to Social Contexts: Sex and Gender Differences in PTSD

  • Rachel KimerlingEmail author
  • Monica C. Allen
  • Laramie E. Duncan
Disaster Psychiatry: Trauma, PTSD, and Related Disorders (MJ Friedman, Section Editor)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Disaster Psychiatry: Trauma, PTSD, and Related Disorders


Purpose of Review

This review highlights recent research on sex- and gender-related factors in the prevalence, symptom expression, and treatment of PTSD. Further discoveries about the underlying mechanisms of sex and gender effects have the potential to shape innovative directions for research.

Recent Findings

The prevalence of PTSD is substantially higher among women, but women show a modest advantage with respect to treatment response. There is evidence of greater heritability among females. Women are more likely to experience sexual and intimate violence, childhood trauma exposure, and repeated trauma exposures. Specific characteristics of social contexts act as gender-linked risks for PTSD. Among individuals diagnosed with PTSD, men and women are similar in phenotypic expression.


Though research has yet to fully account for the factors that explain sex- and gender- related effects on PTSD, emerging research suggests these effects occur across multiple levels. Shared risk factors for trauma exposure and PTSD merit further investigation. Both social and biological contexts merit investigation to understand sex-linked differences in heritability.


Post-traumatic stress disorder PTSD Gender Sex Social context Genetic 



The authors would like to thank Aimee Zhang, B.A., for assistance with the preparation of this manuscript. This material is based upon work supported in part by the Department of Veterans Affairs, Veterans Health Administration, National Center for PTSD.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.


The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the Department of Veterans Affairs or the US government.


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Copyright information

© This is a U.S. Government work and not under copyright protection in the US; foreign copyright protection may apply 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rachel Kimerling
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Monica C. Allen
    • 1
    • 3
  • Laramie E. Duncan
    • 4
  1. 1.National Center for PTSD, VA Palo Alto Health Care SystemMenlo ParkUSA
  2. 2.Center for Innovation to ImplementationVA Palo Alto Health Care SystemMenlo ParkUSA
  3. 3.Pacific Graduate School of Psychology-Stanford Psy.D. ConsortiumPalo AltoUSA
  4. 4.Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral SciencesStanford University School of MedicineStanfordUSA

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