Multiple Traumatic Events and Psychological Distress: The South Africa Stress and Health Study

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Using nationally representative data from South Africa, we examine lifetime prevalence of traumas and multiple traumas (number of events). Employing multiple regression analysis, the authors study the sociodemographic risk of trauma, and the association between trauma and distress. Results indicate most South Africans experience at least one traumatic event during their lives, with the majority reporting multiple. Consistent variation in risk is evident for gender and marital status, but not other sociodemographics. Trauma is positively related to high distress, and findings also support a cumulative effect of trauma exposure. Individuals with the most traumas (6+) appear at 5 times greater risk of high distress. This study highlights the importance of considering traumatic events in the context of other traumas in South Africa.