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Changes in mental health among U.S. military veterans during the COVID-19 pandemic: A network analysis


Spiller, Tobias R; Na, Peter J; Merians, Addie N; Duek, Or; Ben-Zion, Ziv; Tsai, Jack; von Känel, Roland; Harpaz-Rotem, Ilan; Pietrzak, Robert H (2023). Changes in mental health among U.S. military veterans during the COVID-19 pandemic: A network analysis. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 165:352-359.

Abstract

Increases of symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety and depression have been observed among individuals exposed to potentially traumatic events in the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic. Similarly, associations among different aspects of mental health, such as symptoms of PTSD and suicidal ideation, have also been documented. However, studies including an assessment prior to the onset and during the height of the pandemic are lacking. We investigated changes in symptoms of PTSD, depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, and posttraumatic growth in a population-based sample of 1232 U.S. military veterans who experienced a potentially traumatic event during the first year of the pandemic. Symptoms were assessed prior to (fall/winter 2019) and one year into the pandemic (fall/winter 2020). We compared changes in symptom interrelations using network analysis, and assessed their associations with pandemic-related PTSD and posttraumatic growth symptoms. A subtle increase in psychopathological symptoms and a decrease in posttraumatic growth was observed one year into the pandemic. The peripandemic network was more densely connected, and pandemic-related PTSD symptoms were positively associated with age, anxiety, worst-event PTSD symptoms, and pandemic-related posttraumatic growth. Our findings highlight the resilience of veterans exposed to a potentially traumatic event during the first year of a pandemic. Similarly, the networks did not fundamentally change from prepandemic to one year into the pandemic. Despite this relative stability on a group level, individual reactions to potentially traumatic events could have varied substantially. Clinicians should individualize their assessments but be aware of the general resilience of most veterans.

Abstract

Increases of symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety and depression have been observed among individuals exposed to potentially traumatic events in the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic. Similarly, associations among different aspects of mental health, such as symptoms of PTSD and suicidal ideation, have also been documented. However, studies including an assessment prior to the onset and during the height of the pandemic are lacking. We investigated changes in symptoms of PTSD, depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, and posttraumatic growth in a population-based sample of 1232 U.S. military veterans who experienced a potentially traumatic event during the first year of the pandemic. Symptoms were assessed prior to (fall/winter 2019) and one year into the pandemic (fall/winter 2020). We compared changes in symptom interrelations using network analysis, and assessed their associations with pandemic-related PTSD and posttraumatic growth symptoms. A subtle increase in psychopathological symptoms and a decrease in posttraumatic growth was observed one year into the pandemic. The peripandemic network was more densely connected, and pandemic-related PTSD symptoms were positively associated with age, anxiety, worst-event PTSD symptoms, and pandemic-related posttraumatic growth. Our findings highlight the resilience of veterans exposed to a potentially traumatic event during the first year of a pandemic. Similarly, the networks did not fundamentally change from prepandemic to one year into the pandemic. Despite this relative stability on a group level, individual reactions to potentially traumatic events could have varied substantially. Clinicians should individualize their assessments but be aware of the general resilience of most veterans.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > University Hospital Zurich > Klinik für Konsiliarpsychiatrie und Psychosomatik
Dewey Decimal Classification:610 Medicine & health
Scopus Subject Areas:Health Sciences > Psychiatry and Mental Health
Life Sciences > Biological Psychiatry
Uncontrolled Keywords:COVID-19; Network analysis; PTSD; Pandemic; Veterans
Language:German
Date:September 2023
Deposited On:07 Feb 2024 13:44
Last Modified:30 Jun 2024 01:39
Publisher:Elsevier
ISSN:0022-3956
OA Status:Hybrid
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpsychires.2023.08.003
PubMed ID:37595331
  • Content: Published Version
  • Language: English
  • Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)