JOURNAL ARTICLE

Risk factors for posttraumatic stress disorder among deployed US male marines

Christopher J Phillips, Cynthia A Leardmann, Gia R Gumbs, Besa Smith
BMC Psychiatry 2010, 10: 52
20579379

BACKGROUND: Combat exposure has been reported as one of the strongest risk factors for postdeployment posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among military service members. Determining the impact of specific deployment-related exposures on the risk of developing PTSD has not been fully explored. Our study objective was to explore the relationship between specific combat exposures and other life experiences with postdeployment PTSD.

METHODS: This study consisted of male Marines who completed a Recruit Assessment Program (RAP) survey during recruit training at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego, California as well as a follow-up survey several years after recruit training. Study participants included those Marines who deployed to the current operations in Iraq or Afghanistan between the baseline and follow-up surveys. Multivariable logistic regression was performed to determine which significant exposures and experiences were associated with postdeployment PTSD.

RESULTS: Of the 706 study participants, 10.8% screened positive for postdeployment PTSD. Those who reported feeling in great danger of death (odds ratio [OR] = 4.63, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 2.46-8.73), were shot or seriously injured (OR = 3.51, 95% CI: 1.58-7.77), saw someone wounded or killed (OR = 2.47, 95% CI: 1.08-5.67), and baseline (before recruit training) prior violence exposures (OR = 2.99, 95% CI: 1.46-6.10) were at increased odds for reporting PTSD symptoms. Number of deployments, number of close friends or relatives reported at follow-up, and enlisted pay grade were also significantly associated with postdeployment PTSD.

CONCLUSIONS: Combat exposures, specifically the threat of death, serious injury, and witnessing injury or death are significant risk factors for screening positive for postdeployment PTSD among male Marines as well as violence exposures prior to entering the Marine Corps, which are independent of future combat exposures. A thorough history of lifetime violence exposures should be pursued when considering a clinical diagnosis of PTSD.

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