PTSD May Raise Risk for Cardiac Problems in Select Group of Male Veterans

Masculinity may have negative health implications in male veterans with post-traumatic stress. According to a new study conducted by Jay Morrison of the Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, male veterans who are under stress to maintain masculine conformity may experience more severe symptoms of PTSD, which in turn can elevate their risk for cardiac problems. “A portion of this association may be explained by direct physiological alterations found in PTSD that place individuals at greater risk for cardiac illnesses,” said Morrison. “However, PTSD and symptoms of the disorder also have been associated with an increase in negative health behaviors that place individuals at elevated risk for the development of CVD (cardiovascular disease), such as smoking, alcohol and other drug use, non-adherence to prescription medication regimens and reduced physical activity.”

Morrison evaluated 197 male veterans using a number of clinical tools, including the Conformity to Masculine Norms Inventory, the Masculine Gender Role Stress Scale (MGSR) and the Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Checklist-Military version, as well as tests designed to measure behaviors that would directly affect cardiac health. Morrison found that the veterans who displayed higher levels of masculinity, or the need to conform to male gender roles, had increased levels of post-traumatic stress symptoms. Additionally, Morrison discovered that increased stress to conform with the masculine gender role was directly related to negative health behaviors. Morrison believes that this segment of the population is especially vulnerable because of the expectations of masculinity in the military culture. One test was of particular importance to Morrison. He said, “The Emotional Inexpressiveness subscale of the MGSR was uniquely associated with probable PTSD symptom severity, suggesting that emotional inexpressiveness associated with the male gender role may contribute to the failure of emotional processing relevant to the etiology and maintenance of PTSD.”

Morrison, J. A. (2011, June 27). Masculinity Moderates the Relationship Between Symptoms of PTSD and Cardiac-Related Health Behaviors in Male Veterans. Psychology of Men & Masculinity. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0024186

© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Salem


    August 10th, 2011 at 4:37 AM

    Wouldn’t it stand to reason that any kind of prolonged stress in one’s life would increase their chances for a cardiac incident later in life? This may not just be restricted to PTSD.

  • D.Gibson


    August 10th, 2011 at 1:02 PM

    Masculine roles are always going to be harder than the ones that are not and there is no doubt that these roles include being in the battlefield and combating directly.It is not surprising that such roles trigger more of PTSD and thereby cardio problems later on.

    There is not much that can be done except for paying more attention to the metal health of these veterans. There is no escaping excessive stress when you are in the armed forces but only levels are different.

  • Ruthie G.

    Ruthie G.

    August 17th, 2011 at 2:50 PM

    What does the S stand for? That’s right, stress. What have the studies said about stress? That’s right. Linked to heart attacks. Veterans who have been on a battlefield are going to have suffered more stress in mere months stationed in war zones than the average civilian will have to undergo in his entire lifetime. This link is no shock.

  • Chase McGhee

    Chase McGhee

    August 17th, 2011 at 3:20 PM

    @Salem, I would think so too. Add to that that they are making poor choices to their attempts to alleviate their stress–smoking more, drinking more, substance abuse–and you can see why they would be a heart attack waiting to happen.

    If the PTSD was dealt with, and the accompanying related poor choices slowed down or stopped, they could fare much better in the heart department.

  • Martin D. Nash

    Martin D. Nash

    August 17th, 2011 at 3:41 PM

    @Gibson, the times they are a-changing. There’s female soldiers fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq too you know, US ones anyway. PTSD doesn’t only affect the male soldiers and actually heart disease is the #1 killer of US women. Both of those things are wrongly assumed to be the province of men alone and it’s simply not true.

  • Temperance


    August 19th, 2011 at 2:30 PM

    I was thinking there when was the last time I’d seen a good story about Veterans getting what they deserve. I’m sorry to say that I can’t remember. If you look at the news, you’ll see they get a lot of hard knocks, including the state of Texas making it harder for them to vote. I think the country has simply stopped caring about our heroes! It’s shameful and speaks volumes about our society.

  • Josef Kane

    Josef Kane

    August 19th, 2011 at 4:57 PM

    Conforming to gender roles is an issue from centuries ago. In these modern societies, men can raise children and a woman can fire a gun. It used to be only the men who fought and hunted, and only the women nurtured and raised.

    We have expanded as a species and advanced in technology to where making people fit gender roles is not needed. It’s stress they don’t need in a place with ten thousand men and women, all with access to very powerful weapons.

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