Interpersonal violence, PTSD, and inflammation: Potential psychogenic pathways to higher C-reactive protein levels

Nicole M. Heath, James I Gerhart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Interpersonal violence (IPV) is major public health concern with wide-ranging sequelae including depression, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and possible alterations of immune and inflammation processes. There is a need to identify the psycho-biological pathways through which IPV may translate to altered inflammatory processes since both PTSD and inflammation are associated with serious physical health conditions such as obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. This study investigated the relationships between IPV, psychological distress, and the inflammatory marker C-reactive protein (CRP), in a sample of 139 urban women who have a high likelihood for having experienced IPV. Participants were recruited from an outpatient gynecology clinic to complete self-report measures about their IPV histories and psychological symptoms, as well as to have their blood sampled using a finger stick. Results indicated that exposure to IPV predicted the presence of probable depression and PTSD diagnoses. Individuals who experience clinical levels of PTSD exhibited higher CRP levels, and this relationship held after adjusting for comorbid depression. Correlational analyses suggested that reexperiencing symptoms may explain the link between PTSD diagnosis and higher levels of CRP. Follow-up path analytic models provided good fit to the overall data, and indicated that the relationship between probable PTSD status and CRP is not explained by higher BMI. Overall, these findings call for increased attention to the role of PTSD in explaining links between trauma and diminished health.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)172-178
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2013


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