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Unit cohesion may protect service member mental health by mitigating effects of combat exposure; however, questions remain about the origins of potential stress-buffering effects. We examined buffering effects associated with two forms of unit cohesion (peer-oriented horizontal cohesion and subordinate-leader vertical cohesion) defined as either individual-level or aggregated unit-level variables.
Longitudinal survey data from US Army soldiers who deployed to Afghanistan in 2012 were analyzed using mixed-effects regression. Models evaluated individual- and unit-level interaction effects of combat exposure and cohesion during deployment on symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and suicidal ideation reported at 3 months post-deployment (model n's = 6684 to 6826). Given the small effective sample size (k = 89), the significance of unit-level interactions was evaluated at a 90% confidence level.
At the individual-level, buffering effects of horizontal cohesion were found for PTSD symptoms [B = −0.11, 95% CI (−0.18 to −0.04), p < 0.01] and depressive symptoms [B = −0.06, 95% CI (−0.10 to −0.01), p < 0.05]; while a buffering effect of vertical cohesion was observed for PTSD symptoms only [B = −0.03, 95% CI (−0.06 to −0.0001), p < 0.05]. At the unit-level, buffering effects of horizontal (but not vertical) cohesion were observed for PTSD symptoms [B = −0.91, 90% CI (−1.70 to −0.11), p = 0.06], depressive symptoms [B = −0.83, 90% CI (−1.24 to −0.41), p < 0.01], and suicidal ideation [B = −0.32, 90% CI (−0.62 to −0.01), p = 0.08].
Policies and interventions that enhance horizontal cohesion may protect combat-exposed units against post-deployment mental health problems. Efforts to support individual soldiers who report low levels of horizontal or vertical cohesion may also yield mental health benefits.
This study assessed the efficacy of agomelatine (1,2,3), in the prevention of relapse in non-depressed out-patients with DSM-IV-TR defined Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and the tolerability.
GAD patients received open label agomelatine (25–50 mg/day). At week 4 the dose was increased for patients with insufficient improvement (blinded criteria). At week 16, responders were randomised to maintenance treatment with either agomelatine, or placebo for a 26 week period. Then, agomelatine treated-patients were re-randomised to an agomelatine arm or to a placebo arm, to confirm the lack of discontinuation symptoms (on the DESS check-list).
The primary outcome was the time to relapse (days) during the 26 week double-blind treatment period, as estimated using the Kaplan-Meier method. Relapse was defined as HAMA total score > = 15 or withdrawal for lack of efficacy (in the investigator's opinion, based on both HAM-A and CGI scores).
477 patients entered the open-label phase and 329 completed this period. 228 patients were randomly assigned to receive agomelatine (114 patients) or placebo (114 patients).
The incidence over time of relapse was significantly lower with agomelatine compared to placebo (19.7% versus 31.7% log rank test p = 0.046) during the double-blind treatment period.
During the double-blind treatment period 12.4% patients with agomelatine and 9.6% with placebo reported at least one emergent adverse event related to the study treatment. There was no discontinuation syndrome in agomelatine treated patients.
Agomelatine was efficacious in preventing relapse in GAD, with maintenance of efficacy over 6 months, and good tolerability.
Two common approaches to identify subgroups of patients with bipolar disorder are clustering methodology (mixture analysis) based on the age of onset, and a birth cohort analysis. This study investigates if a birth cohort effect will influence the results of clustering on the age of onset, using a large, international database.
The database includes 4037 patients with a diagnosis of bipolar I disorder, previously collected at 36 collection sites in 23 countries. Generalized estimating equations (GEE) were used to adjust the data for country median age, and in some models, birth cohort. Model-based clustering (mixture analysis) was then performed on the age of onset data using the residuals. Clinical variables in subgroups were compared.
There was a strong birth cohort effect. Without adjusting for the birth cohort, three subgroups were found by clustering. After adjusting for the birth cohort or when considering only those born after 1959, two subgroups were found. With results of either two or three subgroups, the youngest subgroup was more likely to have a family history of mood disorders and a first episode with depressed polarity. However, without adjusting for birth cohort (three subgroups), family history and polarity of the first episode could not be distinguished between the middle and oldest subgroups.
These results using international data confirm prior findings using single country data, that there are subgroups of bipolar I disorder based on the age of onset, and that there is a birth cohort effect. Including the birth cohort adjustment altered the number and characteristics of subgroups detected when clustering by age of onset. Further investigation is needed to determine if combining both approaches will identify subgroups that are more useful for research.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a highly disabling condition, with frequent early onset. Adult/adolescent OCD has been extensively investigated, but little is known about prevalence and clinical characterization of geriatric patients with OCD (G-OCD = 65 years). The present study aimed to assess prevalence of G-OCD and associated socio-demographic and clinical correlates in a large international sample.
Data from 416 outpatients, participating in the ICOCS network, were assessed and categorized into 2 groups, age < vs = 65 years, and then divided on the basis of the median age of the sample (age < vs = 42 years). Socio-demographic and clinical variables were compared between groups (Pearson Chi-squared and t tests).
G-OCD compared with younger patients represented a significant minority of the sample (6% vs 94%, P < .001), showing a significantly later age at onset (29.4 ± 15.1 vs 18.7 ± 9.2 years, P < .001), a more frequent adult onset (75% vs 41.1%, P < .001) and a less frequent use of cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) (20.8% vs 41.8%, P < .05). Female gender was more represented in G-OCD patients, though not at a statistically significant level (75% vs 56.4%, P = .07). When the whole sample was divided on the basis of the median age, previous results were confirmed for older patients, including a significantly higher presence of women (52.1% vs 63.1%, P < .05).
G-OCD compared with younger patients represented a small minority of the sample and showed later age at onset, more frequent adult onset and lower CBT use. Age at onset may influence course and overall management of OCD, with additional investigation needed.
Intermittent explosive disorder (IED) is characterised by impulsive anger attacks that vary greatly across individuals in severity and consequence. Understanding IED subtypes has been limited by lack of large, general population datasets including assessment of IED. Using the 17-country World Mental Health surveys dataset, this study examined whether behavioural subtypes of IED are associated with differing patterns of comorbidity, suicidality and functional impairment.
IED was assessed using the Composite International Diagnostic Interview in the World Mental Health surveys (n = 45 266). Five behavioural subtypes were created based on type of anger attack. Logistic regression assessed association of these subtypes with lifetime comorbidity, lifetime suicidality and 12-month functional impairment.
The lifetime prevalence of IED in all countries was 0.8% (s.e.: 0.0). The two subtypes involving anger attacks that harmed people (‘hurt people only’ and ‘destroy property and hurt people’), collectively comprising 73% of those with IED, were characterised by high rates of externalising comorbid disorders. The remaining three subtypes involving anger attacks that destroyed property only, destroyed property and threatened people, and threatened people only, were characterised by higher rates of internalising than externalising comorbid disorders. Suicidal behaviour did not vary across the five behavioural subtypes but was higher among those with (v. those without) comorbid disorders, and among those who perpetrated more violent assaults.
The most common IED behavioural subtypes in these general population samples are associated with high rates of externalising disorders. This contrasts with the findings from clinical studies of IED, which observe a preponderance of internalising disorder comorbidity. This disparity in findings across population and clinical studies, together with the marked heterogeneity that characterises the diagnostic entity of IED, suggests that it is a disorder that requires much greater research.
Research on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) course finds a substantial proportion of cases remit within 6 months, a majority within 2 years, and a substantial minority persists for many years. Results are inconsistent about pre-trauma predictors.
The WHO World Mental Health surveys assessed lifetime DSM-IV PTSD presence-course after one randomly-selected trauma, allowing retrospective estimates of PTSD duration. Prior traumas, childhood adversities (CAs), and other lifetime DSM-IV mental disorders were examined as predictors using discrete-time person-month survival analysis among the 1575 respondents with lifetime PTSD.
20%, 27%, and 50% of cases recovered within 3, 6, and 24 months and 77% within 10 years (the longest duration allowing stable estimates). Time-related recall bias was found largely for recoveries after 24 months. Recovery was weakly related to most trauma types other than very low [odds-ratio (OR) 0.2–0.3] early-recovery (within 24 months) associated with purposefully injuring/torturing/killing and witnessing atrocities and very low later-recovery (25+ months) associated with being kidnapped. The significant ORs for prior traumas, CAs, and mental disorders were generally inconsistent between early- and later-recovery models. Cross-validated versions of final models nonetheless discriminated significantly between the 50% of respondents with highest and lowest predicted probabilities of both early-recovery (66–55% v. 43%) and later-recovery (75–68% v. 39%).
We found PTSD recovery trajectories similar to those in previous studies. The weak associations of pre-trauma factors with recovery, also consistent with previous studies, presumably are due to stronger influences of post-trauma factors.
Sexual assault is a global concern with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), one of the common sequelae. Early intervention can help prevent PTSD, making identification of those at high risk for the disorder a priority. Lack of representative sampling of both sexual assault survivors and sexual assaults in prior studies might have reduced the ability to develop accurate prediction models for early identification of high-risk sexual assault survivors.
Data come from 12 face-to-face, cross-sectional surveys of community-dwelling adults conducted in 11 countries. Analysis was based on the data from the 411 women from these surveys for whom sexual assault was the randomly selected lifetime traumatic event (TE). Seven classes of predictors were assessed: socio-demographics, characteristics of the assault, the respondent's retrospective perception that she could have prevented the assault, other prior lifetime TEs, exposure to childhood family adversities and prior mental disorders.
Prevalence of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV (DSM-IV) PTSD associated with randomly selected sexual assaults was 20.2%. PTSD was more common for repeated than single-occurrence victimization and positively associated with prior TEs and childhood adversities. Respondent's perception that she could have prevented the assault interacted with history of mental disorder such that it reduced odds of PTSD, but only among women without prior disorders (odds ratio 0.2, 95% confidence interval 0.1–0.9). The final model estimated that 40.3% of women with PTSD would be found among the 10% with the highest predicted risk.
Whether counterfactual preventability cognitions are adaptive may depend on mental health history. Predictive modelling may be useful in targeting high-risk women for preventive interventions.
The suicide rate has increased significantly among US Army soldiers over the past decade. Here we report the first results from a large psychological autopsy study using two control groups designed to reveal risk factors for suicide death among soldiers beyond known sociodemographic factors and the presence of suicide ideation.
Informants were next-of-kin and Army supervisors for: 135 suicide cases, 137 control soldiers propensity-score-matched on known sociodemographic risk factors for suicide and Army history variables, and 118 control soldiers who reported suicide ideation in the past year.
Results revealed that most (79.3%) soldiers who died by suicide have a prior mental disorder; mental disorders in the prior 30-days were especially strong risk factors for suicide death. Approximately half of suicide decedents tell someone that they are considering suicide. Virtually all of the risk factors identified in this study differed between suicide cases and propensity-score-matched controls, but did not significantly differ between suicide cases and suicide ideators. The most striking difference between suicides and ideators was the presence in the former of an internalizing disorder (especially depression) and multi-morbidity (i.e. 3+ disorders) in the past 30 days.
Most soldiers who die by suicide have identifiable mental disorders shortly before their death and tell others about their suicidal thinking, suggesting that there are opportunities for prevention and intervention. However, few risk factors distinguish between suicide ideators and decedents, pointing to an important direction for future research.
Traumatic events are common globally; however, comprehensive population-based cross-national data on the epidemiology of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the paradigmatic trauma-related mental disorder, are lacking.
Data were analyzed from 26 population surveys in the World Health Organization World Mental Health Surveys. A total of 71 083 respondents ages 18+ participated. The Composite International Diagnostic Interview assessed exposure to traumatic events as well as 30-day, 12-month, and lifetime PTSD. Respondents were also assessed for treatment in the 12 months preceding the survey. Age of onset distributions were examined by country income level. Associations of PTSD were examined with country income, world region, and respondent demographics.
The cross-national lifetime prevalence of PTSD was 3.9% in the total sample and 5.6% among the trauma exposed. Half of respondents with PTSD reported persistent symptoms. Treatment seeking in high-income countries (53.5%) was roughly double that in low-lower middle income (22.8%) and upper-middle income (28.7%) countries. Social disadvantage, including younger age, female sex, being unmarried, being less educated, having lower household income, and being unemployed, was associated with increased risk of lifetime PTSD among the trauma exposed.
PTSD is prevalent cross-nationally, with half of all global cases being persistent. Only half of those with severe PTSD report receiving any treatment and only a minority receive specialty mental health care. Striking disparities in PTSD treatment exist by country income level. Increasing access to effective treatment, especially in low- and middle-income countries, remains critical for reducing the population burden of PTSD.
The U.S. Army uses universal preventives interventions for several negative outcomes (e.g. suicide, violence, sexual assault) with especially high risks in the early years of service. More intensive interventions exist, but would be cost-effective only if targeted at high-risk soldiers. We report results of efforts to develop models for such targeting from self-report surveys administered at the beginning of Army service.
21 832 new soldiers completed a self-administered questionnaire (SAQ) in 2011–2012 and consented to link administrative data to SAQ responses. Penalized regression models were developed for 12 administratively-recorded outcomes occurring by December 2013: suicide attempt, mental hospitalization, positive drug test, traumatic brain injury (TBI), other severe injury, several types of violence perpetration and victimization, demotion, and attrition.
The best-performing models were for TBI (AUC = 0.80), major physical violence perpetration (AUC = 0.78), sexual assault perpetration (AUC = 0.78), and suicide attempt (AUC = 0.74). Although predicted risk scores were significantly correlated across outcomes, prediction was not improved by including risk scores for other outcomes in models. Of particular note: 40.5% of suicide attempts occurred among the 10% of new soldiers with highest predicted risk, 57.2% of male sexual assault perpetrations among the 15% with highest predicted risk, and 35.5% of female sexual assault victimizations among the 10% with highest predicted risk.
Data collected at the beginning of service in self-report surveys could be used to develop risk models that define small proportions of new soldiers accounting for high proportions of negative outcomes over the first few years of service.
The drilled Inter-Continental Drilling Project core at the deeps of the Dead Sea reveals thick sequences of halite deposits from the last interglacial period, reflecting prevailing arid conditions in the lake’s watershed. Here, we examine sequences of intercalating evaporates (halite or gypsum) and fine-detritus laminae and apply petrographic, micro-X-ray fluorescence, and statistical tools to establish in high-temporal resolution the hydroclimatic controls on the sedimentation in the last interglacial Dead Sea. The time series of the thickness of the best-recovered core sections of the layered halite, detritus, and gypsum reveals periodicities of ~11, 7–8, and 4–5 yr, pointing to a North Atlantic control and possibly solar influence on the hydrology of the Dead Sea watershed during the regionally arid period of the last interglacial period. Similar periodicities were detected in the last glacial and modern sedimentary sequences of the Dead Sea and other archives of the central Levant, indicating a persistent impact of the solar cycles on regional hydrology, possibly through the effects of the North Atlantic Oscillation.
This is the first cross-national study of intermittent explosive disorder (IED).
A total of 17 face-to-face cross-sectional household surveys of adults were conducted in 16 countries (n = 88 063) as part of the World Mental Health Surveys initiative. The World Health Organization Composite International Diagnostic Interview (CIDI 3.0) assessed DSM-IV IED, using a conservative definition.
Lifetime prevalence of IED ranged across countries from 0.1 to 2.7% with a weighted average of 0.8%; 0.4 and 0.3% met criteria for 12-month and 30-day prevalence, respectively. Sociodemographic correlates of lifetime risk of IED were being male, young, unemployed, divorced or separated, and having less education. The median age of onset of IED was 17 years with an interquartile range across countries of 13–23 years. The vast majority (81.7%) of those with lifetime IED met criteria for at least one other lifetime disorder; co-morbidity was highest with alcohol abuse and depression. Of those with 12-month IED, 39% reported severe impairment in at least one domain, most commonly social or relationship functioning. Prior traumatic experiences involving physical (non-combat) or sexual violence were associated with increased risk of IED onset.
Conservatively defined, IED is a low prevalence disorder but this belies the true societal costs of IED in terms of the effects of explosive anger attacks on families and relationships. IED is more common among males, the young, the socially disadvantaged and among those with prior exposure to violence, especially in childhood.
Considerable research has documented that exposure to traumatic events has negative effects on physical and mental health. Much less research has examined the predictors of traumatic event exposure. Increased understanding of risk factors for exposure to traumatic events could be of considerable value in targeting preventive interventions and anticipating service needs.
General population surveys in 24 countries with a combined sample of 68 894 adult respondents across six continents assessed exposure to 29 traumatic event types. Differences in prevalence were examined with cross-tabulations. Exploratory factor analysis was conducted to determine whether traumatic event types clustered into interpretable factors. Survival analysis was carried out to examine associations of sociodemographic characteristics and prior traumatic events with subsequent exposure.
Over 70% of respondents reported a traumatic event; 30.5% were exposed to four or more. Five types – witnessing death or serious injury, the unexpected death of a loved one, being mugged, being in a life-threatening automobile accident, and experiencing a life-threatening illness or injury – accounted for over half of all exposures. Exposure varied by country, sociodemographics and history of prior traumatic events. Being married was the most consistent protective factor. Exposure to interpersonal violence had the strongest associations with subsequent traumatic events.
Given the near ubiquity of exposure, limited resources may best be dedicated to those that are more likely to be further exposed such as victims of interpersonal violence. Identifying mechanisms that account for the associations of prior interpersonal violence with subsequent trauma is critical to develop interventions to prevent revictimization.
Although interventions exist to reduce violent crime, optimal implementation requires accurate targeting. We report the results of an attempt to develop an actuarial model using machine learning methods to predict future violent crimes among US Army soldiers.
A consolidated administrative database for all 975 057 soldiers in the US Army in 2004–2009 was created in the Army Study to Assess Risk and Resilience in Servicemembers (Army STARRS). Of these soldiers, 5771 committed a first founded major physical violent crime (murder-manslaughter, kidnapping, aggravated arson, aggravated assault, robbery) over that time period. Temporally prior administrative records measuring socio-demographic, Army career, criminal justice, medical/pharmacy, and contextual variables were used to build an actuarial model for these crimes separately among men and women using machine learning methods (cross-validated stepwise regression, random forests, penalized regressions). The model was then validated in an independent 2011–2013 sample.
Key predictors were indicators of disadvantaged social/socioeconomic status, early career stage, prior crime, and mental disorder treatment. Area under the receiver-operating characteristic curve was 0.80–0.82 in 2004–2009 and 0.77 in the 2011–2013 validation sample. Of all administratively recorded crimes, 36.2–33.1% (male-female) were committed by the 5% of soldiers having the highest predicted risk in 2004–2009 and an even higher proportion (50.5%) in the 2011–2013 validation sample.
Although these results suggest that the models could be used to target soldiers at high risk of violent crime perpetration for preventive interventions, final implementation decisions would require further validation and weighing of predicted effectiveness against intervention costs and competing risks.
Civilian suicide rates vary by occupation in ways related to occupational stress exposure. Comparable military research finds suicide rates elevated in combat arms occupations. However, no research has evaluated variation in this pattern by deployment history, the indicator of occupation stress widely considered responsible for the recent rise in the military suicide rate.
The joint associations of Army occupation and deployment history in predicting suicides were analysed in an administrative dataset for the 729 337 male enlisted Regular Army soldiers in the US Army between 2004 and 2009.
There were 496 suicides over the study period (22.4/100 000 person-years). Only two occupational categories, both in combat arms, had significantly elevated suicide rates: infantrymen (37.2/100 000 person-years) and combat engineers (38.2/100 000 person-years). However, the suicide rates in these two categories were significantly lower when currently deployed (30.6/100 000 person-years) than never deployed or previously deployed (41.2–39.1/100 000 person-years), whereas the suicide rate of other soldiers was significantly higher when currently deployed and previously deployed (20.2–22.4/100 000 person-years) than never deployed (14.5/100 000 person-years), resulting in the adjusted suicide rate of infantrymen and combat engineers being most elevated when never deployed [odds ratio (OR) 2.9, 95% confidence interval (CI) 2.1–4.1], less so when previously deployed (OR 1.6, 95% CI 1.1–2.1), and not at all when currently deployed (OR 1.2, 95% CI 0.8–1.8). Adjustment for a differential ‘healthy warrior effect’ cannot explain this variation in the relative suicide rates of never-deployed infantrymen and combat engineers by deployment status.
Efforts are needed to elucidate the causal mechanisms underlying this interaction to guide preventive interventions for soldiers at high suicide risk.
There is limited evidence on the acceptability, feasibility and cost-effectiveness of task-sharing interventions to narrow the treatment gap for mental disorders in sub-Saharan Africa. The purpose of this article is to describe the rationale, aims and methods of the Africa Focus on Intervention Research for Mental health (AFFIRM) collaborative research hub. AFFIRM is investigating strategies for narrowing the treatment gap for mental disorders in sub-Saharan Africa in four areas. First, it is assessing the feasibility, acceptability and cost-effectiveness of task-sharing interventions by conducting randomised controlled trials in Ethiopia and South Africa. The AFFIRM Task-sharing for the Care of Severe mental disorders (TaSCS) trial in Ethiopia aims to determine the acceptability, affordability, effectiveness and sustainability of mental health care for people with severe mental disorder delivered by trained and supervised non-specialist, primary health care workers compared with an existing psychiatric nurse-led service. The AFFIRM trial in South Africa aims to determine the cost-effectiveness of a task-sharing counselling intervention for maternal depression, delivered by non-specialist community health workers, and to examine factors influencing the implementation of the intervention and future scale up. Second, AFFIRM is building individual and institutional capacity for intervention research in sub-Saharan Africa by providing fellowship and mentorship programmes for candidates in Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, Uganda and Zimbabwe. Each year five Fellowships are awarded (one to each country) to attend the MPhil in Public Mental Health, a joint postgraduate programme at the University of Cape Town and Stellenbosch University. AFFIRM also offers short courses in intervention research, and supports PhD students attached to the trials in Ethiopia and South Africa. Third, AFFIRM is collaborating with other regional National Institute of Mental Health funded hubs in Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia, by designing and executing shared research projects related to task-sharing and narrowing the treatment gap. Finally, it is establishing a network of collaboration between researchers, non-governmental organisations and government agencies that facilitates the translation of research knowledge into policy and practice. This article describes the developmental process of this multi-site approach, and provides a narrative of challenges and opportunities that have arisen during the early phases. Crucial to the long-term sustainability of this work is the nurturing and sustaining of partnerships between African mental health researchers, policy makers, practitioners and international collaborators.
Patients with anxiety disorders suffer marked functional impairment in their activities of daily living. Many studies have documented that improvements in anxiety symptom severity predict functioning improvements. However, no studies have investigated how improvements in functioning simultaneously predict symptom reduction. We hypothesized that symptom levels at a given time point will predict functioning at the subsequent time point, and simultaneously that functioning at a given time point will predict symptom levels at a subsequent time point.
Patients were recruited from primary-care centers for the Coordinated Anxiety Learning and Management (CALM) study and were randomized to receive either computer-assisted cognitive-behavioral therapy and/or medication management (ITV) or usual care (UC). A cross-lagged panel design examined the relationship between functional impairment and anxiety and depression symptom severity at baseline, 6-, 12-, and 18-month follow-up assessments.
Prospective prediction of functioning from symptoms and symptoms from functioning were both important in modeling these associations. Anxiety and depression predicted functioning as strongly as functioning predicted anxiety and depression. There were some differences in these associations between UC and ITV. Where differences emerged, the UC group was best modeled with prospective paths predicting functioning from symptoms, whereas symptoms and functioning were both important predictors in the ITV group.
Treatment outcome is best captured by measures of functional impairment as well as symptom severity. Implications for treatment are discussed, as well as future directions of research.