Examining COVID-19 Stress, Cumulative Trauma, and Race

A poster from the APA 2021 Virtual Conference found that “COVID-19 traumatic stress is positively correlated with both PTSD and cumulative stressors and trauma.”

It is no surprise that will the immense amount of stress inflicted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. has seen a sharp increase in mental health symptoms.

During the APA 2021 Virtual Conference, one group focused in on the effect the COVID-19 pandemic has had on PTSD symptoms, beyond cumulative trauma. 

The study presented with two objectives; one was to examine if COVID-19 “has an additive, significant effect on PTSD symptoms beyond the effect of cumulative trauma,” and two; it also sought to understand if there is a three-way interaction between COVID-19 stress, cumulative trauma, and race in predicting PTSD.

For this study, participants were collected through the Amazon Mechanical Turk and a large Southeastern minority-serving university.

Characteristics of the participants included:

  • Ages 18 to 77
  • 5% women, 47.9% men, and 0.6% transgender
  • 9% Hispanic and Latinx
  • 23% Black/African American
  • 12% Asian/Asian American
  • 2% American Indian/Alaska Natives
  • 56% White
  • 5% Other
  • 2% Multiple Races

Results from the PROCESS regression model showed that the pandemic had an additive and distinct effect on PTSD symptoms beyond the effect of cumulative trauma. Furthermore, these effects were impacted by race.

Interestingly, stress from COVID-19 seems to have a greater impact on PTSD at lower levels of cumulative trauma with Non-white participants, while at higher levels of cumulative trauma, White participants with higher levels of COVID-threat have higher levels of PTSD symptoms that those of non-White participants.