Public attitudes and literacy about posttraumatic stress disorder in U.S. adults

Jack Tsai, Jianxun Shen, Steven M. Southwick, Spencer Greenberg, Aislinn Pluta, Robert H. Pietrzak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


There has been little study of public literacy regarding posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Public knowledge and attitudes about PTSD are important for encouraging treatment, prevention, and informing policies. Using a national online survey of 541 adults across 47 U.S. states in November 2016, we assessed attitudes and knowledge about PTSD. Most notably with respect to attitudes, 76–94% of the sample endorsed more federal funding for research, training, and practice for PTSD; and 76% of the sample also believed people with PTSD should have restricted access to firearms. With respect to knowledge, participants demonstrated good general knowledge about PTSD, but tended to overestimate the rate of PTSD and trauma exposure, and demonstrated little knowledge about effective treatments. Sociodemographic characteristics and political affiliation were associated with PTSD knowledge and attitudes, but clinical characteristics did not explain much additional variance. Together, these findings suggest that there is strong public support for research and practice related to PTSD, but little public knowledge about evidence-based treatments for this disorder.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)63-69
JournalJournal of Anxiety Disorders
Early online date26 Feb 2018
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2018


  • Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
  • Health Literacy
  • Prevention
  • Trauma
  • Public Policy


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