43% of veterans report increased post-traumatic growth associated with COVID-19 pandemic

April 8, 2021

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Source / Discoveries

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One study author reports receiving royalties from Cambridge University Press. Other authors do not report relevant financial disclosures.


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More than 40% of U.S. military veterans reported moderate or higher levels of post-traumatic growth associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, according to research published in JAMA network open.

The most common areas of growth include a greater understanding of life, improved social relationships, and increased personal strength.

“Given the predominance of research documenting the negative mental health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, we wondered if some veterans might experience positive psychological effects or post-traumatic growth in the midst of a pandemic,” Robert H. Pietrzak, PhD, MPH, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Healio told psychiatry. “Extensive research in a wide range of trauma populations has found that a significant proportion of people exposed to trauma, especially those with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, experience positive psychological changes, such as greater respect for life, closer relationships, greater awareness and use of personal strength. spiritual development and recognizing new possibilities or purposes of one’s life. However, no study has examined whether the COVID-19 pandemic can trigger positive psychological changes, so we examined this using data from a nationally representative sample of U.S. military veterans. ”

Pietrzak and colleagues received data on the baseline survey between 18 November 2019 and 8 March 2020 and one-year follow-up data between 9 November 2020 and 19 December 2020 from veterans who participated in the 2019 to 2020 National Health Survey and veteran resilience. They analyzed baseline and follow-up data from 3,078 veterans (mean age 63.3 years; 91.6% of men) and assessed post-traumatic growth associated with COVID-19 through a short form of Post-Traumatic Growth List. Next, they calculated the overall results and five subscales that related to personal strength, relationships, new opportunities, spiritual change, and respect for life. The researchers adapted to a number of background characteristics and pandemic-related risk factors and then conducted a multivariable logistic regression analysis to assess the link between posttraumatic growth and suicidal ideation.

The results showed that 12.8% of the veterans in the study tested positive for COVID-19-related PTSD symptoms. A total of 1,328 (weighted percentage = 43.3%) reported experiencing moderate or higher levels of pandemic-related post-traumatic growth, most commonly respect for life, connection to others, and personal strength. Those who tested positive for POVP symptoms associated with COVID-19 were more likely to support all aspects of posttraumatic growth than those who tested negative. A total of 7.7% of veterans were positively tested for suicidal ideation in the initial assessment and 8% in the subsequent assessment. The researchers adapted to the background and risk factors associated with the pandemic and found an independent link between lower risk of suicidal ideation on follow-up assessment and improvements in life assessment associated with COVID-19 (OR = 0.59; 95% CI, 0.35-0). , 98) and in relation to others (OR = 0.58; 95% CI, 0.34–0.99).

“Our results suggest that, in addition to the negative effects of the global pandemic on mental health, a significant proportion of veterans report positive psychological changes,” Pietrzak said. “These changes are particularly pronounced among veterans with post-traumatic pandemic-related symptoms, who are likely to engage in a deeper, reflective treatment of the pandemic that can help stimulate such changes. Our finding, which links higher pandemic-related posttraumatic growth, especially greater respect for life and improved relationships with others, with a significantly lower probability of suicidal thinking during a pandemic, emphasizes the importance of evaluating interventions to promote posttraumatic growth as part of veteran suicide prevention and treatment. “

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