2011 National Meeting

3022 — Combat Experience, Mental Health, Alcohol and Drug Use in Post-Deployed Afghanistan (OEF) and Iraq (OIF) Veterans

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

Study objectives were to examine: 1) deployment risk and resilience factors, mental health, PTSD, alcohol and drug use among OEF/OIF veterans; and 2) possible associations between gender, deployment site (Iraq or Afghanistan), component (active duty, national guard, other reserve), and branch of service (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines) with risk, resilience, mental health, alcohol and drug use.

A national sample of 596 OEF/OIF personnel, stratified by gender (50%) and service component (50% Active Duty, 25% National Guard, 25% other Reserve) were surveyed within 12 months of return from deployment. The survey included the PTSD Checklist, Veterans SF-12 (VR-12), Behavior and Symptom Identification Scale, Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test, Drug Abuse Screening Test, Deployment Risk and Resilience Inventory, Bartone Hardiness Scale, and General Self-Efficacy Scale. Regression analyses with weights for both sampling design and non-response probabilities examined the association of gender, deployment site, component, and branch of service with risk, resilience, mental health, and alcohol/drug use.

13.9% of the sample met the threshold score of 50 on the PTSD checklist. The mean Mental Component Summary score (VR-12) was 40.56 (sd = 7.91), a full standard deviation below the general population mean (50). The mean Physical Component Score was 49.51 (sd = 9.63), near the general population mean. Service branch was consistently associated with risk, resilience, mental health, and alcohol/drug use. Army and Marine personnel reported worse mental health, PTSD, alcohol, and/or drug use. Air Force personnel reported best mental health (including least PTSD, alcohol, or drug use). Army and/or Marines also reported more risk factors (including combat exposure) and less resilience (including social support and hardiness) than Air Force or Navy personnel. Men reported more combat exposure and alcohol use, but less hardiness than women; gender was not associated with mental health or PTSD.

PTSD reported by our sample was consistent with rates reported by other researchers; mental health was substantially worse in our sample than in Gulf War Veterans. Army and Marine personnel are at higher risk than Air Force or Navy personnel.

Better understanding of risk and resilience factors for mental health and substance abuse will help inform prevention and intervention services for Veterans.