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2011 HSR&D National Meeting Abstract

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2011 National Meeting

1023 — Does Resilience Predict Mental Health, Alcohol or Drug Abuse in Afghanistan (OEF) and Iraq (OIF) Veterans?

Eisen SV (Bedford VA), Vogt D (Boston VA), Glickman ME (Bedford VA), Elwy AR (Bedford VA), Martin JA (Bryn Mawr College), Schultz M (Bedford VA), Drainoni ML (Bedford VA), Del Vecchio N (Bedford VA), Howard A (Bedford VA)

Combat exposure, family dysfunction, and histories of abuse are known risk factors for mental health conditions. However, less is known about factors that protect people from developing these conditions. Our objective was to identify resilience factors associated with mental health and substance abuse among recent Afghanistan OEF) and Iraq (OIF) Veterans, after controlling for demographic characteristics and known risk factors.

A national sample of 596 OEF/OIF Veterans were surveyed within 12 months of returning from deployment to obtain measures of risk, resilience, mental health, and substance abuse. Women were oversampled, comprising 58% of the total; average age was 33.9 years, 66% were white, 15% African-American, and 12% Latino. The survey included the Deployment Risk and Resilience Inventory (DRRI), resilience measures including hardiness (Bartone Hardiness Scale), self-efficacy (General Self-Efficacy Scale), and social support (from the DRRI), and mental health/substance abuse measures (PTSD Checklist, Veterans SF-12 Mental Component Score [MCS], Behavior and Symptom Identification Scale, Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test, and Drug Abuse Screening Test. The DRRI assesses prior stressors, childhood/family environment, deployment preparedness, difficult living and working environment, concerns about life and family disruptions, deployment social support, sexual and general harassment, perceived threat, combat experiences, aftermath of battle, nuclear, biological and chemical exposures, post-deployment social support and additional life stressors. Regression analyses, with weights as a function of both the sampling design and non-response probabilities, were performed to identify resilience variables associated with mental health, PTSD, and substance abuse.

After controlling for respondent characteristics and DRRI risk factors, higher levels of hardiness and self-efficacy each contributed significantly to the prediction of better overall mental health and less PTSD symptomatology (p’s < .01), but were not significantly associated with lower levels of alcohol use. Higher post-deployment social support was associated with increased alcohol use.

Resilience factors, including hardiness and self-efficacy, significantly predicted better mental health, but not absence of alcohol abuse.

Interventions to increase resilience, specifically hardiness and self-efficacy, may be useful in protecting Veterans from mental health problems including PTSD, following return from military deployment.

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