Linking US Military Personnel, Religion, & PTSD

Research Paper Title

Hope, Religiosity, and Mental Health in U.S. Veterans and Active Duty Military with PTSD Symptoms.

Background

Many studies have linked hope with better mental health and lower risk of suicide. This is especially true in those who have experienced severe physical or emotional trauma. Religious involvement is associated with greater hope.

The researchers examine here the relationship between hope, religiosity, and mental health in a sample of Veterans and Active Duty Military (ADM) with PTSD symptoms.

Methods

A cross-sectional multi-site study was conducted involving 591 Veterans and ADM from across the United States. Inclusion criteria were having served in a combat theatre and the presence of PTSD symptoms.

Measures of religiosity, PTSD symptoms, depression, and anxiety were administered, along with a single question assessing the level of hope on a visual analog scale from 1 to 10. Bivariate and multivariate relationships were examined, along with the moderating effects of religiosity on the relationship between hope and symptoms of PTSD, depression, and anxiety.

Results

Hope was inversely related to PTSD, depression, and anxiety symptoms (r = -0.33, -0.56, and -0.40, respectively, all p < 0.0001), but was positively related to religiosity (r = 0.32, p < 0.0001).

Religiosity remained significantly related to hope (p < 0.0001) after controlling for demographics, military characteristics, as well as PTSD, depression, and anxiety symptoms, and this relationship was partly but not entirely mediated by social factors (marital status, relationship quality, community involvement).

Religiosity did not, however, moderate the strong inverse relationships between hope and PTSD, depression or anxiety symptoms.

Conclusions

Hope is inversely related to PTSD, depression, and anxiety in Veterans and ADM with PTSD symptoms. Although religiosity is positively related to hope, independent of demographic, military, social, and psychological factors, it does not buffer the negative relationships between hope and PTSD, depression, or anxiety.

While further research is warranted, particularly longitudinal studies capable of addressing questions about causality, providing support for the existing religious beliefs of current and former military personnel may help to enhance hope and mental health in the setting of severe combat-related trauma.

Reference

Koenig, H.G., Youssef, N.A., Smothers, Z., Oliver, J.P., Boucher, N.A., Ames, D., Volk, F., Teng, E.J. & Haynes, K. (2020) Hope, Religiosity, and Mental Health in U.S. Veterans and Active Duty Military with PTSD Symptoms. Military Medicine. 185(1-2), pp.97-104. doi: 10.1093/milmed/usz146.

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