Post-traumatic stress disorder and health risk behaviors among Afghanistan and Iraq War veterans attending college

Center for Chronic Disease Outcomes Research and AssistantProfessor, Department of Medicine, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, USA.
American journal of health behavior (Impact Factor: 1.31). 07/2011; 35(4):387-92. DOI: 10.5993/AJHB.35.4.1
Source: PubMed


To determine if post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is associated with health risk behaviors among Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF) veterans attending college.
Using 2008 Boynton College Student Health Survey data, we tested associations between self-reported PTSD diagnosis and self-reported risk behaviors (n=406).
We found PTSD diagnosis to be significantly associated with reporting involvement in a physical fight in the past year (ARR = 3.1; 95% CI: 2.2, 4.4) and marginally associated with highrisk drinking (ARR = 1.3; 95% CI: 1.1, 1.6). However, no association was seen between PTSD and the tobacco use and other safety behaviors that we examined.
PTSD is likely a factor that contributes to the relationship between military service and certain health risk behaviors.

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    • "Only college students from the state of Minnesota were studied, and the online survey format could lead to problems such as sampling issues, misrepresentation of identity, and the relative inability to generalize findings (McCullagh, n.d.). In spite of this, the results of the survey closely parallel results from other surveys about Operation Enduring and Iraqi Freedom veterans, especially in reports of aggression (Widome et al., 2011). However, the study's conclusions leaned on several previously reported statistics about college students in order to justify results dissimilar to those collected from non-veteran college students. "
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    • "Although qualitative investigations have continually highlighted social support as an important factor influencing the adjustment of student service members/veterans to higher education, to date, there are a paucity of quantitative investigations examining social support. The vast majority of published quantitative investigations have focused on psychological and mental health issues such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and suicidal ideation (Barry, Whiteman, & MacDermid Wadsworth, 2012; Barry, Whiteman, MacDermid Wadsworth, & Hitt, 2012; Elliott et al., 2011; Rudd, Goudling, & Bryan, 2011; Widome et al., 2011) and health risk behaviors such as alcohol use, smoking, and physical violence (Whiteman & Barry, 2011; Widome, Laska, Gulden, & Lust, 2011). However, one study that examined the implications of social support for student service members/veterans documented a negative relationship between social support from family and friends (not limited to university friends) and PTSD, such that student service members/veterans reporting greater social support experienced less frequent PTSD symptoms (Elliott et al., 2011). "
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