Evidence that ovarian hormones, but not diet and exercise, contribute to the sex disparity in post-traumatic stress disorder

Authors: Megan Wiseman, Megan Hinks, Darcy Hallett, Jaqueline Blundell, Ellen Sweeney, Christina Thorpe, Susan Walling, Ashlyn Swift-Gallant

Journal: Journal of Psychiatric Research, 168.

Abstract: Females are twice as likely as males to receive a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). One hypothesis for this sex disparity is that ovarian hormones, including estrogen and progesterone, contribute to PTSD risk. Alternatively, sex differences in lifestyle factors, such as diet and exercise, may play a role in PTSD risk. Using data from the Atlantic Partnership for Tomorrow’s Health (PATH) cohort (n = 16,899), the relationship between endogenous hormone fluctuations (e.g., menarche, pregnancy, and menopause), exogenous hormone use (e.g., hormonal contraception and hormone replacement therapy (HRT)) and lifestyle variables (diet and exercise habits, as measured by the Mediterranean Diet Adherence Screener, Healthy Eating Index, and International Physical Activity Questionnaire) with PTSD diagnosis and treatment were analyzed. While several hormonal variables, including contraceptive use, higher total number of pregnancies, younger menarche age, and having undergone menopause increased the risk of PTSD, no lifestyle variables contributed to an increased risk of PTSD diagnosis. These findings support the theory that ovarian hormones contribute to the sex-linked disparity in PTSD diagnosis.

doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpsychires.2023.10.048