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2008 HSR&D National Meeting Abstract

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)

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.

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.

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.

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.

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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