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Psychological trauma and evidence for enhanced vulnerability for posttraumatic stress disorder through previous trauma among West Nile refugees.BACKGROUND: Political instability and the civil war in Southern Sudan have resulted in numerous atrocities, mass violence, and forced migration for vast parts of the civilian population in the West Nile region. High exposure to traumatic experiences has been particularly prominent in the Ugandan and Sudanese of the West Nile Region, representing an indication of the psychological strain posed by years of armed conflict. METHODS: In this study the impact of traumatic events on the prevalence and severity of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in a random sample of 3.339 Ugandan nationals, Sudanese nationals, and Sudanese refugees (1.831 households) of the West Nile region is assessed. RESULTS: Results show a positive correlation between the number of traumatic events and the number of endorsed PTSD symptoms. Of the 58 respondents who experienced the greatest number of traumatizing experiences, all reported symptoms which met the DSM-IV criteria for PTSD. CONCLUSIONS: There is a clear dose-effect relationship between traumatic exposure and PTSD in the studied populations with high levels of traumatic events. In this context, it is probable that any individual could develop PTSD regardless of other risk-factors once the trauma load reaches a certain threshold.