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The Impact Of Lifetime Trauma On Mental Health Of Adults In Hue


The Impact Of Lifetime Trauma On Mental Health Of Adults In Hue


Exposure to traumatic events at any stage of life can have long-lasting effects on mental and physical health.  Vietnam is prone to natural disasters and many people have loved ones who are killed or injured on the roads. Until recent decades there was a long history of war, where people were in combat or suffered severe damage to their homes and communities. Recently, many children and adults have been exposed to different kinds of hardship, including witnessing domestic violence, experiencing divorce, or child abuse.


Some people survive trauma quite well, while others can be badly affected. There is a need for research in Vietnam to understand the long term effects of lifetime exposure to trauma on adults’ mental health.


This study examined the lifetime prevalence of single and multiple traumas, and the links between trauma and depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among a random sample of 608 adults residing in Thua Thien-Hue province in central Vietnam. We found that symptoms of mental ill health were common among adults in central Vietnam. One in every eight adults shows signs of depression, one in every six had anxiety and one in every fourteen reported symptoms of PTSD.  


Nearly half of the people interviewed reported exposure to at least one serious traumatic event in their lifetime; and among these people, about 60% reported exposure to multiple traumas. The most common traumas were due to natural disasters, transportation accidents and life-threatening illness or injury. Older participants reported combat and other war experiences, while people of all ages mentioned interpersonal violence, loss of loved ones and other traumatic events.


People exposed to multiple traumas had significantly more mental health problems than people who did not have these experiences. The higher the number of traumas people are exposed over their lifetime, the higher the risk of having symptoms of mental illnesses. The study found that interpersonal trauma appears to have a more harmful effect on mental health than non-interpersonal trauma.


This is the first study of exposure to multiple traumas in a random community-based sample of adults in Vietnam. Although limited to one province, the findings indicate the strong impact of traumatic events on psychological well-being of adults. The evidence supports calls for doctors and other health professionals to be sensitive to the long term effects of trauma experiences on people who are seeking health care. It is necessary to broaden the focus of current health services that are concerned mainly with biological causes and pharmaceutical treatments of common mental disorders, including stress, anxiety and depression.


The research was published in Frontiers in Psychiatry in February 2019 and is available here: