Who gets PTSD? Prevalence of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in Emergency Physicians

It might be easy to assume that those who we consider “high functioning” may be at risk of PTSD, especially so when those people are working in the same area as us. However, it is always prudent to be aware of statistics rather than our own bias.

In a 2019 paper DeLucia and colleagues examined the prevalence of PTSD amongst those who treat physical trauma. They examined emergency room doctors. They found 15.8% (point prevalence) of (U.S.) emergency physicians met the criteria for PTSD. This is higher compared with the general population (U.S.) where 3.8% are estimated to meet criteria for PTSD.

They also found that those who were a victim of a past trauma were more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with PTSD as those who were not a victim.

More studies

Several earlier studies from other countries, report similar results in prevalence of self-reported PTSD symptoms in Emergency room Physicians. Pajoknk et al (2012) found a rate of 16.8% in Germany, Zafar et al 2016 reported 15.4% in Pakistan and Somville et al found 14.5 % in Belgian emergency doctors.

Emergency Doctors report the highest rates of burnout 65% (Stehman 2019) compared to other medical specialities. It may be worth considering if PTSD is part of this presentation when working with this population.


DeLucia, J. A., Bitter, C., Fitzgerald, J., Greenberg, M., Dalwari, P., & Buchanan, P. (2019). Prevalence of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in Emergency Physicians in the United States. The western journal of emergency medicine, 20(5), 740–746. doi:10.5811/westjem.2019.7.42671

Pajoknk F, Cransac P, Teichmann A, et al. Trauma and stress-related disorders in German emergency physicians: the predictive role of personality factors. Int J Emerg Mental Health. 2012;14:257–68.

Somville, F. J., De Gucht, V., & Maes, S. (2016). The impact of occupational hazards and traumatic events among Belgian emergency physicians. Scandinavian journal of trauma, resuscitation and emergency medicine, 24, 59. doi:10.1186/s13049-016-0249-9

Stehman, C. R., Testo, Z., Gershaw, R. S., & Kellogg, A. R. (2019). Burnout, drop out, suicide: Physician loss in emergency medicine, part I. The Western Journal of Emergency Medicine, 20(3) doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.5811/westjem.2019.4.40970

Zafar W, Khan UR, Siddiqui SA, et al. Workplace violence and self-reported psychological health: coping with post-traumatic stress, mental distress, and burnout among physicians working in the emergency departments compared to other specialties in Pakistan. J Emerg Med. 2016;50:167–72.