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Abstract

This study investigated the influence of exposure to a tornado disaster and disaster-related posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptomatology on physical health complaints and primary health care utilization among rural medical patients. One-hundred five patients completed self-report measures assessing disaster exposure, PTSD symptoms, and self-reported physical health complaints. Objective rates of health care utilization were gathered by a review of medical records. Tornado disaster exposure and generalized psychological distress were associated with physical health complaints one year following the disaster. After controlling for age, gender, and levels of predisaster health care utilization, PTSD Cluster C (avoidance) symptoms were associated with increased rates of postdisaster health care utilization. Implications of these findings for interventions within the medical system are discussed.