Posttraumatic growth in Veterans of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom

Robert H Pietrzak, Marc B Goldstein, James C Malley, Alison J Rivers, Douglas C Johnson, Charles A Morgan, Steven M Southwick
Journal of Affective Disorders 2010, 126 (1): 230-5

OBJECTIVE: A growing body of research has examined the prevalence and correlates of psychopathology, mild traumatic brain injury, and related problems in Veterans of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom (OEF-OIF). While these studies help characterize the deleterious effects of combat, no known study has examined factors that may enhance posttraumatic growth or positive changes experienced as a result of combat in this population.

METHOD: A total of 272 predominantly older Reservist/National Guard OEF-OIF Veterans completed an anonymous mail survey that assessed combat exposure, psychopathology, psychosocial functioning, social support, and posttraumatic growth.

RESULTS: Seventy-two percent of the sample endorsed a significant degree of posttraumatic growth in at least one of the areas assessed, the most common of which were changing priorities about what is important in life (52.2%), being able to better appreciate each day (51.1%), and being better able to handle difficulties (48.5%). Hierarchical regression analysis revealed that younger age, greater posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms, and increased perceptions of unit member support and effort/perseverance were significantly associated with posttraumatic growth. Respondents with PTSD scored higher on an overall measure of posttraumatic growth and on items reflecting appreciation of life and personal strength.

LIMITATIONS: This study is limited by a relatively low survey return rate and employment of an abbreviated measure of posttraumatic growth.

CONCLUSIONS: Results of this study suggest that interventions to bolster unit member support and to enhance perceptions of effort and perseverance may help promote posttraumatic growth in OEF-OIF Veterans.

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