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2008 HSR&D National Meeting Abstract

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National Meeting 2008

1058 — Prospective Predictors of In-Theater Post-Traumatic Stress Symptoms in a Cohort of National Guard Soldiers Deployed to OIF

Polusny MA (Minneapolis VAMC), Erbes CR (Minneapolis VAMC), Arbisi PA (Minneapolis VAMC), Thuras P (Minneapolis VAMC), Reddy M (University of Minnesota Medical School), Duffy C (University of Minnesota Medical School), Rath M (Minnesota National Guard), Courage C (Minnesota National Guard)

Objectives:
The mental health of National Guard soldiers returning from OIF/OEF combat deployments is a national concern. However, our knowledge of risk and resilience factors for combat trauma is limited and derived largely from retrospective, cross-sectional studies of active duty personnel. The present study prospectively examines pre-deployment factors predicting in-theater symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among a cohort of National Guard soldiers deployed to OIF.

Methods:
As part of a larger study of risk and resiliency, 230 members of the National Guard 1st Brigade, 34th Infantry Division, 1/34 Brigade Combat Team (1/34 BCT) completed a (Time 1) survey 1 month prior to deploying to OIF and then participated in a (Time 2) in-theater survey during the last 2 months of their deployment. Time 1 measures included key subscales of the Deployment Risk and Resiliency Inventory and PTSD Checklist (PCL). Time 2 surveys, including the PCL, were distributed by our in-theater military collaborators and shipped back to the United States for analysis to ensure soldier confidentiality. The sample was predominantly male (82.5%) and Caucasian (88.7%). The mean age of participants was 29 years and 41% are married or living with a partner.

Results:
Structural equation modeling analyses were conducted to evaluate the prospective effects of risk and resilience factors, including pre-deployment PTSD symptoms, childhood family environment, prior exposure to life stressors, perceived unit support, perceptions of military preparedness for deployment, and concerns about impact/disruption of deployment on quality of life, on soldiers’ in-theater symptoms of PTSD. Preliminary analyses revealed that lower perceived military preparedness was significantly associated with greater in-theater PTSD symptoms. Poorer pre-deployment perception of the impact/disruption of deployment on quality of life was also associated with greater in-theater PTSD symptoms.

Implications:
Soldiers’ pre-deployment perceptions of their military preparedness as well as their concerns about the impact/disruption of deployment on their lives significantly predicted subsequent PTSD symptoms during OIF deployment.

Impacts:
This study provides preliminary evidence for two potentially modifiable factors that can be targeted for training and interventions of at-risk soldiers to enhance resiliency. Follow up longitudinal studies are needed to evaluate the course of adjustment in this population and the effectiveness of VA outreach and care services.


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