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Research Streams

The Centre for Traumatic Stress Studies has expertise in the aetiology and epidemiology of mental/physical disorders, disasters, accidents, early life stress and occupational health (including military and first responders) and has five main streams:

Trauma and Adversity Across the Lifespan

This stream explores the impacts of lifetime trauma on mental and physical problems across the lifespan. Data are derived from four longitudinal datasets with multiple time points. Exposures include accidents, disasters, environmental exposures, childhood trauma and injuries. Projects examine predictors of ICD-10 mental disorder, physical health, socio-economic outcomes, PTSD, somatic symptoms, personality, risk taking behaviour, functioning, emotional regulation and family structure and relationships. The role of cumulative and repeated trauma exposure is a key focus.

Key projects:

  • A 26-year study of 1532 children exposed to the 1983 Ash Wednesday Bushfires.
  • A 30-year study of the relationship between lead exposure, early child development, cognitive functioning and adult health in a birth cohort (N=723) from Port Pirie SA.
  • The long-term mental and physical impacts of major injury (childhood burns N=1101 and traumatic injury survivors N=1084).

Military Mental and Physical Health

This large research program examines the mental and physical health of Australian Defence Force personnel (ADF) specifically civilian and military (incl. deployment) predictors of health and performance. Key themes include ICD-10 mental disorder, mental and physical health, mTBI, screening, substance use, help seeking, resilience, support, combat exposures and lifetime trauma. Neuro-biological and physical impacts of conflict and service including environmental exposures, illness and injuries are priorities.

Key projects:

  • Prevalence and predictors of mental disorder and psychological distress in the entire ADF (N=50049): 2010 ADF Mental Health Prevalence and Wellbeing Study.
  • Deployment to the Middle East (MEAO): The MEAO Prospective Study of 1324 personnel pre-post deployment.
  • The Transition and Wellbeing Research Programme (N=103049). Mental and physical health of current and ex-serving ADF members and their families: the role of transition and combat.

Occupational Mental and Physical Health

This stream consists of research into population rates of mental and physical disorder. Projects examine the prevalence and predictors of mental and physical health in Australian occupational settings involving repeated exposure to stress, violence, trauma and death. Representative cohort data from Emergency Service Personnel (SA Metropolitan Fire Service, Ambulance Service, State Emergency Service and Emergency Departments) is being used to investigate the role of workplace exposures, occupational stress, and lifetime trauma in the development of mental and physical symptoms over the career course.

Key projects:

  • Predictors and prevalence of mental and physical symptoms in the Australian emergency services.
  • Risk taking behaviour, gambling and substance use in the Australian emergency services.
  • Trauma, PTSD and anger in the Australian emergency services.
  • Treatment seeking, support and barriers to care in the Australian emergency services.

Neurobiological Mechanisms of Traumatic Stress

This research stream is focussed on understanding the neurobiological mechanisms underpinning responses to stress exposure.  This includes examining a range of potential risk and resilience indicators including objective neurophysiological outcomes such as emotional processing, working memory, attentional processes, and resting electrophysiology; biological outcomes such as immune response and metabolic changes; and both structural and functional brain imaging.

Key Projects:

  • Investigating the dynamics of neurocognitive function in response to stress.
  • Examination of physiological processes underlying the development of psychopathology.
  • Identification of biomarkers of risk and resilience in highly traumatised populations.

Intervention Evaluation

This research stream aims to identify and assess the effectiveness of novel intervention approaches aimed at enhancing performance and capacity, mitigating risk and/or augmenting existing treatments in individuals exposed to high levels of stress/trauma.

Key Projects:

  • Evaluating assistance dogs as a treatment adjunct for veterans with PTSD.
  • The role of mindfulness approaches in the treatment of PTSD
  • Predicting and sustaining cognitive capacity in the face of the challenge of combat.
Centre for Traumatic Stress Studies

Level 1
Helen Mayo North
30 Frome Road
The University of Adelaide


T: +61 8 8313 5200
F: +61 8 8313 5368

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