Purpose: Previous research has mainly focused on veterans’ mental health problems, especially on posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Less is known about the impact that the veteran’s experienced potentially traumatic events (PTEs) might have on their significant others. Therefore, we reviewed the scientific literature to find out what is known about the prevalence of secondary traumatic stress (STS) in significant others of veterans. Methods: We systematically searched Pubmed, PsycINFO, Embase, Cochrane Library and PILOTS for relevant articles. This search resulted in 3100 records from which we included 48 articles. Results: Two studies that reported on parental PTSD did not find evidence that parents were affected by their offspring’s experience. Nine studies that reported on PTSD in mainly adult children of veterans found only scant evidence that children were affected by their parent’s experienced PTE. Twenty-seven studies investigated PTSD symptoms in partners of veterans. Here results varied largely between studies with PTSD rates between 0 and 51 %. Conclusions: Overall, we found the strongest evidence of STS in partners of help-seeking veterans with PTSD. The lack of clarity provided by the currently available evidence suggests a pressing need for further work to examine this subject in more detail.
- Vicarious trauma