Social relationship satisfaction and PTSD: Which is the chicken and which is the egg?

Sara A. Freedman*, Moran Gilad, Yael Ankri, Ilan Roziner, Arieh Y. Shalev

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Impaired social relationships are linked with higher levels of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but the association’s underlying dynamics are unknown. PTSD may impair social relationships, and, vice versa, poorer relationship quality may interfere with the recovery from PTSD. Objective: This work longitudinally evaluates the simultaneous progression of PTSD symptoms and social relationship satisfaction (SRS) in a large cohort of recent trauma survivors. It also explores the effect of cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) on the association between the two. Method: Consecutive emergency department trauma admissions with qualifying PTSD symptoms (n=501) were assessed 3 weeks and 5 months after trauma admission. The World Health Organization Quality of Life evaluated SRS and the Clinician Administered PTSD Scale evaluated PTSD symptom severity. Ninety-eight survivors received CBT between measurement sessions. We used Structural Equation Modeling to evaluate cross-lagged effects between the SRS and PTSD symptoms. Results: The cross-lagged effect of SRS on PTSD was statistically significant (β=−0.12, p=0.01) among survivors who did not receive treatment whilst the effect of PTDS on SRS was nil (β=−0.02, p=0.67). Both relationships were non-significant among survivors who received CBT. Discussion: SRS and PTSD are highly associated, and this study shows that changes in SRS in the early aftermath of traumatic events contribute to changes in PTSD, rather than vice versa. SRS impacts natural recovery, but not effective treatment. This study suggests that being satisfied with one’s relationships might be considered as an important factor in natural recovery from trauma, as well as in intervention.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Journal of Psychotraumatology
StatePublished - 16 Dec 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Natural recovery
  • PTSD
  • Social relationship satisfaction


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