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PTSD, Genetic Factors, and Resilience Examined

Depress Anxiety; ePub 2017 Dec 28; Wolf, et al

Genetic factors contribute to a single spectrum of traumatic stress reflecting resilience at one end and high symptom severity at the other, according to a recent study. To that end, rather than focusing only on genetic risk for posttraumatic stress syndrome (PTSD), molecular genetics research may benefit from evaluation of the broader spectrum of traumatic stress. A classical twin study of 2010–2012 survey data was conducted among 3,318 male twin pairs in the Vietnam Era Twin Registry. Analyses included: (a) estimates of genetic and environmental influences on PTSD symptom severity and resilience; (b) development of a latent model of traumatic stress, spanning both PTSD and resilience; and (c) estimates of genetic and environmental influences on this spectrum. Researchers found:

  • The heritability of PTSD was 49% and of resilience was 25%.
  • PTSD and resilience were correlated at r = –.59, and 59% of this correlation was attributable to a single genetic factor, whereas the remainder was due to a single non-shared environment factor.


Wolf EJ, Miller MW, Sullivan DR, et al. A classical twin study of PTSD symptoms and resilience: Evidence for a single spectrum of vulnerability to traumatic stress. [Published online ahead of print December 28, 2017]. Depress Anxiety. doi:10.1002/da.22712.

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