Talk to the Veterans Crisis Line now
U.S. flag
An official website of the United States government

VA Health Systems Research

Go to the VA ORD website
Go to the QUERI website
Publication Briefs

Review Suggests PTSD Negatively Impacts Physical Health but More Research Needed


  • This literature review suggests that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can have negative effects on physical health, but evidence regarding its association with specific physical disorders is lacking.
  • Seven studies were found that examined the relationship between PTSD and certain physical disorders. For example, evidence suggests a significant association between PTSD and musculoskeletal disorders, especially participant report of arthritis, in the general population – but not in Veterans.
  • There also was an association between PTSD and digestive disorders, particularly ulcers, among non-Veterans. The rest of the associations were either found in single studies or are conflicting, particularly in regard to diabetes, congestive heart failure, and stroke.
  • Authors suggest that large, prospective epidemiological trials are needed to examine the relationship between PTSD and physical illness.

There is growing concern that Veterans of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan are at increased risk of PTSD, and little is known about its impact on short- or long-term physical health and the use of healthcare services. In this systematic review, investigators searched case reports, comparative studies, meta-analyses, and review articles published between 1981 and 2008. The search yielded only seven studies that examined the relationship between PTSD and specific physical-health diagnoses. These seven studies were all published between 1999 and 2006; four studies focused on the general population and three studies on Veterans (Vietnam and WWII).


  • Methodology varied across the different studies; e.g., some did not have a comparison group, while others did not control for confounding factors such as demographics or comorbid disorders.
  • The total number of subjects with PTSD and specific physical disorders was low in some studies, but researchers did find significant associations.

Drs. Qureshi and Kunik are part of HSR&D’s Houston Center for Quality of Care and Utilization Studies.

PubMed Logo Qureshi S, Pyne J, Magruder K, Schulz P, and Kunik, M. The Link between Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Physical Cormorbidities: A Systematic Review. Psychiatric Quarterly June 2009;80(2):87-97.

Related Briefs

» next 91 PTSD Briefs...

What are HSR Publication Briefs?

HSR requires notification by HSR-funded investigators about all articles accepted for publication. These journal articles are reviewed by HSR and publication briefs or summaries are written for a select number of articles that are then forwarded to VHA Central Office leadership to keep them informed about important findings or information. Articles to be summarized are selected by HSR based on timeliness of the findings, interest of leadership, or potential impact on the organization. Publication briefs are written for only a small number of HSR published articles. Visit the HSR citations database for a complete listing of HSR articles and presentations.

Questions about the HSR website? Email the Web Team

Any health information on this website is strictly for informational purposes and is not intended as medical advice. It should not be used to diagnose or treat any condition.