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Associations of military sexual trauma, combat exposure, and number of deployments with physical and mental health indicators in Iraq and Afghanistan veterans

Associations of military sexual trauma, combat exposure, and number of deployments with physical and mental health indicators in Iraq and Afghanistan veterans

Psychological Services 12(4): 366-377

Trauma exposure (TE) and numerous deployments have been associated with negative health outcomes in veterans, many of whom have military sexual trauma (MST) and combat exposure (CE). The aims of this study were to examine the relationships between physical and mental health symptoms with MST and CE and number of deployments. Iraq and Afghanistan veterans at the Veterans Affairs San Diego Healthcare System completed self-report measures for MST, CE, number of deployments, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms, depression symptoms, alcohol use, somatic symptoms, health functioning, and body mass index (BMI). Regression analyses examined main and interaction effects of CE and MST and the linear and quadratic trends of number of deployments. The sample (N = 1,294) had a mean age of 31 and was 85% male. The MST by CE interaction on BMI was significant (p = .005), such that MST was associated with lower BMI in veterans with CE and with higher BMI in veterans without CE. MST and CE were associated with higher somatic, PTSD, and depression symptoms and with lower mental health functioning (ps < .001 to .002). CE was associated with lower physical health functioning and higher alcohol use (ps < .001 to .025). Number of deployments was linearly related to higher BMI (p = .004) and had a quadratic association with alcohol use (p = .008). Findings highlight the relationship between TE and poor health outcomes and the need to further study the mechanisms of TE on physical and mental health.

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Accession: 057259473

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PMID: 26524278

DOI: 10.1037/ser0000059

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