Background Much of the research on the impact of trauma exposure among veterans has focused on factors that increase risk for mental health problems. Fewer studies have investigated factors that may prevent mental health problems following trauma exposure. This study examines resilience variables as factors that may prevent subsequent mental health problems.
Purpose To determine whether military service members returning from Afghanistan and Iraq who exhibit higher levels of resilience, including hardiness (encompassing control, commitment, and challenge), self-efficacy, and social support after returning from deployment are less vulnerable to subsequent mental health problems, alcohol, and drug use.
Methods A national sample of 512 service members was surveyed between 3 and 12 months of return from deployment and 6-12 months later. Data were collected in 2008-2009 and analyzed in 2013. Regression analyses ascertained whether resilience 3-12 months after return predicted later mental health and substance problems, controlling for demographic characteristics, mental health, and risk factors, including predeployment stressful events, combat exposure, and others.
Results Greater hardiness predicted several indicators of better mental health and lower levels of alcohol use 6-12 months later, but did not predict subsequent posttraumatic stress symptom severity. Postdeployment social support predicted better overall mental health and less posttraumatic stress symptom severity, alcohol, and drug use.
Conclusions Some aspects of resilience after deployment appear to protect returning service members from the negative effects of traumatic exposure, suggesting that interventions to promote and sustain resilience after deployment have the potential to enhance the mental health of veterans.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This research was funded by the Veterans Administration Health Services Research and Development (HSR&D) Grant No. IAC 06-259-2 , the Center for Healthcare Organization and Implementation Research, and the National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Women’s Health Sciences Division.
© 2014 American Journal of Preventive Medicine.