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The effect of war injury and combat deployment on military wives' mental health symptoms.

BACKGROUND: Although much has been learned about the physical and psychological impacts of deployment and combat injury on military service members, less is known about the effects of these experiences on military spouses.

METHODS: The present study examined self-reported mental health symptoms (using the Brief Symptom Inventory [BSI]-18 and the posttraumatic stress disorder [PTSD] Checklist [PCL-C]) in wives of service members who were combat-injured (CI; n = 60); noninjured with cumulative deployment longer than 11 months (NI-High; n = 51); and noninjured with cumulativel deployment less than 11 months (NI-Low; n = 53).

RESULTS: 36.7% and 11.7% of CI wives endorsed above threshold symptoms on the PCL-C and overall BSI-18, respectively. Multivariate linear regressions revealed that being a CI wife was associated with higher PCL-C, overall BSI-18, and BSI-18 anxiety subscale scores compared to NI-Low wives in models adjusted for individual and family characteristics, as well as prior trauma and childhood adversities. Compared with the NI-High group, the CI group was associated with higher overall BSI-18 scores.

CONCLUSIONS: While CI wives evidenced fewer mental symptoms than expected, these findings suggest a negative impact of service member's combat injury on wives' mental health above that attributable to deployment, highlighting the need for trauma-informed interventions designed to support the needs of military wives affected by combat injury.

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