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.

15 Reads
  • Source
    • "Exposure to combat has been associated with increased rates of aggression upon homecoming (Thomas, Wilk, Riviere, McGurk, Castro, & Hoge, 2010). Longitudinal research of OEF/OIF veterans with PTSD found that 9% admitted to aggression toward a stranger in the previous year (Sullivan & Elbogen, 2014), and veteran students with PTSD have been found to have an elevated risk for fighting (Widome, Kehle, et al., 2011). Veterans with PTSD and negative affect (anger/irritability) may be at increased risk for criminal arrests (Elbogen et al., 2012). "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: As the major ground troop presence in the Middle East is reduced, it is time to reflect, maximize lessons learned, and look forward to what lies ahead for the nearly 2.6 million service members of the United States military who have deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Operation New Dawn. A systematic review of the literature on postdeployment functioning of Iraq and Afghanistan troops was conducted. Findings are described and contextualized in terms of service members’ ongoing strengths, needs, and challenges. The corpus of research on deployed personnel indicates that service members demonstrate resilience in the face of war-related stressors. However, postdeployment impairment in 6 functional domains emerged in the literature review, including mental health, social and role functioning, relationship functioning and family life, spirituality, physical health, and financial well-being. Although risk factors and future trajectories vary across these domains, psychiatric difficulties are a consistent predictor of a worsened course. Implications for clinical practice are described based on the review findings. To promote wellbeing in the years ahead, it is important that service members are supported in their various roles (such as in the classroom, the workforce, and the family). In addition, routine assessment of functioning across domains is highly recommended for postdeployment service members.
    Full-text · Article · Aug 2015 · Professional Psychology Research and Practice
  • Source
    • "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. "

    Full-text · Article · Dec 2013
  • Source
    • "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). "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Student service members/veterans represent a growing population on college campuses. Despite this growth, scholarly investigations into their health- and adjustment-related issues are almost nonexistent. The limited research that is available suggests that student service members/veterans may have trouble connecting with their civilian counterparts and be at risk for social isolation. The present study compared the development and implications of emotional support from peers among 199 student service members/veterans and 181 civilian students through 3 distinct occasions over the course of 1 calendar year. Data were collected via electronic survey. Measured constructs included perceived emotional support from university friends, mental health, alcohol use, and academic functioning. A series of multilevel models revealed that student service members/veterans reported less emotional support from their peers compared with their civilian counterparts; yet, emotional support from peers increased similarly for both groups over time. Although, increasing peer emotional support was generally related to better academic and mental health outcomes for both groups, the links between emotional support and mental health were stronger for civilian students. Results suggest that mental health practitioners, particularly those on college campuses, should be prepared to deal with veteran-specific experiences that occur before and during college. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2013 APA, all rights reserved).
    Full-text · Article · Feb 2013 · Journal of Counseling Psychology
Show more