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Psychological resilience and postdeployment social support protect against traumatic stress and depressive symptoms in soldiers returning from Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom

Authors

  • Robert H. Pietrzak Ph.D., M.P.H.,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut
    2. National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, VA Connecticut Healthcare System, West Haven, Connecticut
    • National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, VA Connecticut Healthcare System, West Haven, CT 06516
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  • Douglas C. Johnson Ph.D.,

    1. Naval Center for Combat Operational Stress Control, and Department of Psychiatry, University of California San Diego School of Medicine, San Diego, California
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  • Marc B. Goldstein Ph.D.,

    1. Department of Psychology, Central Connecticut State University, New Britain, Connecticut
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  • James C. Malley Ph.D.,

    1. Department of Counseling and Family Therapy, Central Connecticut State University, New Britain, Connecticut
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  • Steven M. Southwick M.D.

    1. Department of Psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut
    2. National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, VA Connecticut Healthcare System, West Haven, Connecticut
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Abstract

Background: A number of studies have examined the prevalence and correlates of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and related psychiatric conditions in soldiers returning from Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF), but none have examined whether factors such as psychological resilience and social support may protect against these conditions in this population. Methods: A total of 272 predominantly older reserve/National Guard OEF/OIF veterans completed a mail survey assessing traumatic stress and depressive symptoms, resilience, and social support. Results: Resilience scores in the full sample were comparable to those observed in civilian outpatient primary-care patients. Respondents with PTSD, however, scored significantly lower on this measure and on measures of unit support and postdeployment social support. A hierarchical regression analysis in the full sample suggested that resilience (specifically, increased personal control and positive acceptance of change) and postdeployment social support were negatively associated with traumatic stress and depressive symptoms, even after adjusting for demographic characteristics and combat exposure. Conclusions: These results suggest that interventions to bolster psychological resilience and postdeployment social support may help reduce the severity of traumatic stress and depressive symptoms in OEF/OIF veterans. Depression and Anxiety, 2009. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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