Establishing a methodology to examine the effects of war-zone PTSD on the family: the family foundations study.
ABSTRACT: Military deployment may adversely affect not only returning veterans, but their families, as well. As a result, researchers have increasingly focused on identifying risk and protective factors for successful family adaptation to war-zone deployment, re-integration of the returning veteran, and the longer-term psychosocial consequences of deployment experienced by some veterans and families. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among returning veterans may pose particular challenges to military and military veteran families; however, questions remain regarding the impact of the course of veteran PTSD and other potential moderating factors on family adaptation to military deployment. The Family Foundations Study builds upon an established longitudinal cohort of Army soldiers (i.e. the Neurocognition Deployment Health Study) to help address remaining knowledge gaps. This report describes the conceptual framework and key gaps in knowledge that guided the study design, methodological challenges and special considerations in conducting military family research, and how these gaps, challenges, and special considerations are addressed by the study.
Project description:U.S. combat veterans frequently encounter challenges after returning from deployment, and these challenges may lead to difficulties in psychological and social functioning. Currently, research is limited on gender-related differences within this population, despite female veterans comprising a growing portion of the U.S. military with roles and exposures similar to their male counterparts. Using secondary analysis, we examined 283 returning combat veterans (female = 29.4%) for differences in psychopathology and trauma history. Female veterans were more likely to report a history of sexual trauma than their male counterparts, whereas male veterans were more likely to report greater frequency of gambling in the past year, impulsivity, and hypersexuality. No gender-related differences were identified for depression, anxiety, insomnia, or substance-use disorders, although both men and women veterans had higher rates than those found in the general population. While both male and female combat veterans report various mental health problems as they transition back into civilian life, gender-related differences relating to sexual trauma, hypersexuality, and impulsivity warrant additional investigations with respect to the potential impact they may have on veteran reintegration and treatment.
Project description:Afghanistan and Iraq veterans experienced traumas during deployment, and disrupted connections with friends and family. In this context, it is critical to understand the nature of veterans' transition to civilian life, the challenges navigated, and approaches to reconnection. We investigated these issues in a qualitative study, framed by homecoming theory, that comprised in-depth interviews with 24 veterans. Using an inductive thematic analysis approach, we developed three overarching themes. Military as family explored how many veterans experienced the military environment as a "family" that took care of them and provided structure. Normal is alien encompassed many veterans experiences of disconnection from people at home, lack of support from institutions, lack of structure, and loss of purpose upon return to civilian life. Searching for a new normal included strategies and supports veterans found to reconnect in the face of these challenges. A veteran who had successfully transitioned and provided support and advice as a peer navigator was frequently discussed as a key resource. A minority of respondents-those who were mistreated by the military system, women veterans, and veterans recovering from substance abuse problems-were less able to access peer support. Other reconnection strategies included becoming an ambassador to the military experience, and knowing transition challenges would ease with time. Results were consistent with and are discussed in the context of homecoming theory and social climate theory. Social support is known to be protective for veterans, but our findings add the nuance of substantial obstacles veterans face in locating and accessing support, due to disconnection and unsupportive institutions. Larger scale work is needed to better understand how to foster peer connection, build reconnection with family, and engage the broader community to understand and support veterans; interventions to support reconnection for veterans should be developed.
Project description:Objective: Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) affects a high proportion of returning combat veterans, but the biological mechanisms of PTSD remain unclear. Circulating micro RNAs (miRNAs) have been associated with depression, and anxiety disorders, but there is little understanding of how miRNAs may relate to PTSD. In this study we compare profiles of circulating miRNA in combat veterans with and without PTSD in order to better understand biological mechanisms of PTSD. Methods: Blood from 24 male military service members was collected following deployment to Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) or Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), and subjects were assessed for PTSD symptoms using the PTSD checklist-military version. miRNA was isolated from whole blood and sequenced on the Ion Torrent PGM™ using the Ion 316 Chip v2. Differences in miRNA expression was compared between subjects with PTSD (N=15) and combat matched controls without PTSD (N=9). Significantly different miRNA, according to a FDR≤0.05, were assessed for predictive putative targets, and pathway analysis of related targets was completed. Results: PTSD was associated with 4 upregulated and 4 downregulated miRNA, including a 2.94 fold increase in miR-19a-3p and a 1.56 fold decrease in miR-15b. Pathway analysis show that PTSD is related to the axon guidance and Wnt signaling pathways, which work together along with the adherens junction and MAPK signaling pathways to support neuronal development through regulation of growth cones. The PTSD associated miRNAs related to transcription factors, including Transcription factor 7 (T-cell specific, HMG-box), Transcription factor 7 like 1, and Transcription factor 7 like 2. Conclusions: PTSD is associated with miRNAs that regulate biological functions that include neuronal activities, suggesting that they play a role in PTSD symptomatology. Overall design: miRNA profiling of 24 human blood samples at two time points to study PTSD
Project description:OBJECTIVE:To investigate the incidence of violent crime conviction among Swedish military veterans after deployment to Afghanistan versus non-deployed comparators. The main outcome was first conviction of a violent crime, retrieved from the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention Register until December 31, 2013. METHODS:This was a cohort study of military veterans identified through personnel registers regarding deployment to Afghanistan between 2002 and 2013 (n?=?5894). To each military veteran, up to five non-deployed comparators identified via the Military Service Conscription Register were matched by age, sex, conscription year, cognitive ability, psychological assessment, self-reported mental health, body mass index, antidepressants/anxiolytics prescriptions and self-harm (fully matched comparators; n?=?28?895). Multivariable adjustment was made for substance abuse and previous health care visits with psychiatric diagnoses. An additional comparator group matched only for age, sex and conscription year was also used (age-sex-matched comparators; n?=?29 410). RESULTS:During 21 898 person-years of follow-up (median?=?3.6?years) there were 26 events among deployed military veterans compared with 98 in non-deployed fully matched comparators [12 vs 9 per 10 000 person-years, adjusted hazard ratio (aHR) 1.36; 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.88-2.10]. Among non-deployed age-sex-matched comparators there were 170 violent crime convictions (16 per 10 000 person-years; aHR 0.85; 95% CI 0.56-1.29). Factors associated with greater risk of violent crime convictions were younger age, lower scores on cognitive ability tests and psychological assessment, and convictions preceding deployment. CONCLUSION:The violent crime conviction rate after returning from military deployment to Afghanistan was not different compared with non-deployed comparators in individuals without history of violent crime convictions.
Project description:<h4>Introduction</h4>The purpose of this resource is to introduce first- and second-year medical students to the psychiatric concerns of military veterans. The number of veterans receiving care outside of the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) results in many nonVHA medical doctors treating military veterans; thus, it is important that medical students have exposure to military veterans and their unique issues during medical training. A noncombat veteran with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was specifically chosen for this training to highlight the fact that PTSD can result from a number of different traumatic events that one may experience during military service.<h4>Methods</h4>The student learners were presented with an hour-long didactic on PTSD, depression, and suicide in military veterans. They subsequently engaged in an hour-long simulation with a standardized patient who was trained in the symptom presentation of PTSD. Each student in the class had an opportunity to complete a medical interview with the standardized patient (SP) and receive feedback from both their peers and the SP. The student learners then evaluated the learning experience.<h4>Results</h4>Feedback for the course was overwhelmingly positive. The average response to the quality of the presentation question was 4.83 out of 5 (with 1 = <i>poor</i>; 5 = <i>outstanding</i>).<h4>Discussion</h4>The results indicate that using SPs is a valuable learning modality for teaching medical students about psychiatric concerns in the veteran population.
Project description:Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, and stress are significant problems among returning veterans and are associated with reduced quality of life.A correlational design was used to examine the impact of a polymorphism (5-HTTLPR) in the serotonin transporter promoter gene on post-deployment adjustment among returning veterans.A total of 186 returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans were genotyped for the 5-HTTLPR polymorphism. Symptoms of PTSD, depression, general stress, and anxiety were assessed along with quality of life.After controlling for combat exposure, age, sex of the participant, and race, 5-HTTLPR had a significant multivariate effect on post-deployment adjustment, such that S' carriers reported more post-deployment adjustment problems and worse quality of life than veterans homozygous for the L' allele. This effect was larger when the analyses were restricted to veterans of European ancestry.Our findings suggest that veterans who carry the S' allele of the 5-HTTLPR polymorphism may be at increased risk for adjustment problems and reduced quality of life following deployments to war zones.
Project description:Introduction: Psychiatric service dogs are increasingly being sought out by military veterans as a complementary intervention for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). After receiving a service dog, many veterans continue training their service dog at home. Our objective was to explore the associations between training methods, PTSD severity, service dog behavior, and the veteran-service dog bond in a population of military veterans with PTSD. Methods: Post-9/11 military veterans with PTSD who had received a psychiatric service dog were recruited from a national service dog provider. A total of 111 veterans (M = 40.1 ± 8.3 years, 80% male) participated in an online survey regarding frequency of training methods, PTSD symptom severity, service dog behavior, and the human-animal bond. Service dogs were predominately Labrador Retriever purebreds or mixes of various breeds (66% male) and mostly obtained from shelters or rescues (58%). Training methods were divided into five categories: positive reinforcement (e.g., physical praise), negative punishment (e.g., ignoring the dog), positive punishment (e.g., verbal correction), dominance (e.g., alpha roll), and bond-based (e.g., co-sleeping). Data were analyzed using general linear models. Results: Veterans self-reported using all five categories of training methods at least once a month. More frequent use of positive punishment was associated with less closeness with their service dog (p = 0.02), more fear (p = 0.003), less eye contact (p < 0.0001), and less trainability (p = 0.04). More frequent use of positive reinforcement was associated with higher closeness to their service dog (p = 0.002) and perceived increased attachment behavior (p = 0.002) and playfulness (p = 0.002). More frequent use of bond-based methods was associated with higher closeness to their service dog (p = 0.02). PTSD severity was not significantly associated with reported dog behavior, temperament, or veteran-service dog closeness. Conclusion: Military veterans with PTSD service dogs reported using many training methods that were associated with different outcomes. In general, the reported use of positive reinforcement or bond-based training methods were associated with reporting more positive outcomes while the reported use of positive punishment was associated with reporting more negative outcomes. Educating service dog organizations and recipients about the impacts of training methods could be beneficial for service dog efficacy and welfare.
Project description:AIM:To investigate the probability of marriage and divorce among Swedish military veterans deployed to Afghanistan relative to non-deployed matched comparators. STUDY DESIGN AND SETTING:Matched cohort study in Sweden. PARTICIPANTS:Military veterans were identified through Swedish military personnel registers regarding foreign deployments, and comparators from the Military Service Conscription Register (1969-2013). Of 1,882,411 eligible conscripts, 7041 had served in Afghanistan at some point in time between 2002 and 2013. To each military veteran, up to 5 non-deployed comparators who underwent conscription were matched by age, sex, psychological assessment, cognitive ability, psychiatric history and social characteristics. After matching there were 4896 (82%) unmarried and 1069 (18%) married deployed military veterans. The main outcome was marriage or divorce after deployment to Afghanistan. Data on marital status were retrieved from Statistics Sweden until December 31, 2014. RESULTS:During a median follow-up of 4.1 years after deployment of married individuals, 124 divorces were observed among deployed military veterans and 399 in the matched non-deployed comparator cohort (277 vs. 178 per 10,000 person-years; adjusted hazard ratio 1.61, 95%CI 1.31-1.97). During a median follow-up of 4.7 years after deployment in the unmarried cohort, 827 new marriages were observed among deployed military veterans and 4363 in the matched non-deployed comparators cohort (399 vs. 444 per 10,000 person-years; adjusted hazard ratio 0.89, 95%CI 0.83-0.96). CONCLUSION:Military veterans were more likely to divorce and less likely to marry after deployment compared with matched non-deployed comparators.
Project description:Understanding the factors that influence veterans' functional outcome after deployment is critical to provide appropriately targeted care. Mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have been related to disability, but other psychiatric and behavioral conditions are not as well examined. We investigated the impact of deployment-related psychiatric and behavioral conditions on disability among 255 OEF/OIF/OND service members and veterans. Structured clinical interviews assessed TBI and the psychiatric conditions of depression, PTSD, anxiety, and substance use. Self-report questionnaires assessed disability and the behavioral conditions of sleep disturbance and pain. Over 90% of participants had a psychiatric and/or behavioral condition, with approximately half presenting with ? 3 conditions. Exploratory factor analysis revealed 4 clinically relevant psychiatric and behavioral factors which accounted for 76.9% of the variance: (a) depression, PTSD, and military mTBI (deployment trauma factor); (b) pain and sleep (somatic factor); (c) anxiety disorders, other than PTSD (anxiety factor); and (d) substance abuse or dependence (substance use factor). Individuals with the conditions comprising the deployment trauma factor were more likely to be substantially disabled than individuals with depression and PTSD, but no military mTBI, OR = 3.52; 95% CI [1.09, 11.37]. Depression, PTSD, and a history of military mTBI may comprise an especially harmful combination associated with high risk for substantial disability.
Project description:Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a complex and chronic disorder caused by exposure to a traumatic event, is a common psychological result of current military operations. It causes substantial distress and interferes with personal and social functioning. Consequently, identifying the risk factors that make military personnel and veterans more likely to experience PTSD is of academic, clinical, and social importance. Four electronic databases (PubMed, Embase, Web of Science, and PsycINFO) were used to search for observational studies (cross-sectional, retrospective, and cohort studies) about PTSD after deployment to combat areas. The literature search, study selection, and data extraction were conducted by two of the authors independently. Thirty-two articles were included in this study. Summary estimates were obtained using random-effects models. Subgroup analyses, sensitivity analyses, and publication bias tests were performed. The prevalence of combat-related PTSD ranged from 1.09% to 34.84%. A total of 18 significant predictors of PTSD among military personnel and veterans were found. Risk factors stemming from before the trauma include female gender, ethnic minority status, low education, non-officer ranks, army service, combat specialization, high numbers of deployments, longer cumulative length of deployments, more adverse life events, prior trauma exposure, and prior psychological problems. Various aspects of the trauma period also constituted risk factors. These include increased combat exposure, discharging a weapon, witnessing someone being wounded or killed, severe trauma, and deployment-related stressors. Lastly, lack of post-deployment support during the post-trauma period also increased the risk of PTSD. The current analysis provides evidence of risk factors for combat-related PTSD in military personnel and veterans. More research is needed to determine how these variables interact and how to best protect against susceptibility to PTSD.