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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.
Whereas genetic susceptibility increases the risk for major depressive disorder (MDD), non-genetic protective factors may mitigate this risk. In a large-scale prospective study of US Army soldiers, we examined whether trait resilience and/or unit cohesion could protect against the onset of MDD following combat deployment, even in soldiers at high polygenic risk.
Data were analyzed from 3079 soldiers of European ancestry assessed before and after their deployment to Afghanistan. Incident MDD was defined as no MDD episode at pre-deployment, followed by a MDD episode following deployment. Polygenic risk scores were constructed from a large-scale genome-wide association study of major depression. We first examined the main effects of the MDD PRS and each protective factor on incident MDD. We then tested the effects of each protective factor on incident MDD across strata of polygenic risk.
Polygenic risk showed a dose–response relationship to depression, such that soldiers at high polygenic risk had greatest odds for incident MDD. Both unit cohesion and trait resilience were prospectively associated with reduced risk for incident MDD. Notably, the protective effect of unit cohesion persisted even in soldiers at highest polygenic risk.
Polygenic risk was associated with new-onset MDD in deployed soldiers. However, unit cohesion – an index of perceived support and morale – was protective against incident MDD even among those at highest genetic risk, and may represent a potent target for promoting resilience in vulnerable soldiers. Findings illustrate the value of combining genomic and environmental data in a prospective design to identify robust protective factors for mental health.
Investigations of drinking behavior across military deployment cycles are scarce, and few prospective studies have examined risk factors for post-deployment alcohol misuse.
Prevalence of alcohol misuse was estimated among 4645 US Army soldiers who participated in a longitudinal survey. Assessment occurred 1–2 months before soldiers deployed to Afghanistan in 2012 (T0), upon their return to the USA (T1), 3 months later (T2), and 9 months later (T3). Weights-adjusted logistic regression was used to evaluate associations of hypothesized risk factors with post-deployment incidence and persistence of heavy drinking (HD) (consuming 5 + alcoholic drinks at least 1–2×/week) and alcohol or substance use disorder (AUD/SUD).
Prevalence of past-month HD at T0, T2, and T3 was 23.3% (s.e. = 0.7%), 26.1% (s.e. = 0.8%), and 22.3% (s.e. = 0.7%); corresponding estimates for any binge drinking (BD) were 52.5% (s.e. = 1.0%), 52.5% (s.e. = 1.0%), and 41.3% (s.e. = 0.9%). Greater personal life stress during deployment (e.g., relationship, family, or financial problems) – but not combat stress – was associated with new onset of HD at T2 [per standard score increase: adjusted odds ratio (AOR) = 1.20, 95% CI 1.06–1.35, p = 0.003]; incidence of AUD/SUD at T2 (AOR = 1.54, 95% CI 1.25–1.89, p < 0.0005); and persistence of AUD/SUD at T2 and T3 (AOR = 1.30, 95% CI 1.08–1.56, p = 0.005). Any BD pre-deployment was associated with post-deployment onset of HD (AOR = 3.21, 95% CI 2.57–4.02, p < 0.0005) and AUD/SUD (AOR = 1.85, 95% CI 1.27–2.70, p = 0.001).
Alcohol misuse is common during the months preceding and following deployment. Timely intervention aimed at alleviating/managing personal stressors or curbing risky drinking might reduce risk of alcohol-related problems post-deployment.
Some data suggest that older adults with anxiety disorders do not respond as well to treatment as do younger adults.
We examined age differences in outcomes from the Coordinated Anxiety Learning and Management (CALM) study, an effectiveness trial comparing usual care to a computer-assisted collaborative care intervention for primary care patients with panic disorder, generalised anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and/or social anxiety disorder. This is the first study to examine the efficacy of a collaborative care intervention in a sample that included both younger and older adults with anxiety disorders. We hypothesised that older adults would show a poorer response to the intervention than younger adults.
We examined findings for the overall sample, as well as within each diagnostic category (clinicaltrials.gov identifier: NCT00347269).
The CALM intervention was more effective than usual care among younger adults overall and for those with generalised anxiety disorder, panic disorder and social anxiety disorder. Among older adults, the intervention was effective overall and for those with social anxiety disorder and PTSD but not for those with panic disorder or generalised anxiety disorder. The effects of the intervention also appeared to erode by the 18-month follow-up, and there were no significant effects on remission among the older adults.
These results are consistent with the findings of other investigators suggesting that medications and psychotherapy for anxiety disorders may not be as effective for older individuals as they are for younger people.
The evidence base for treatments of social phobia is one of the most rapidly expanding ones in psychiatry. The recent interest in the subject arose primarily from epidemiological studies that showed large numbers of untreated people severely handicapped by shyness who were not seeking help. Despite strong evidence of effective treatments with both psychological (CBT) and psychopharmacological interventions, only about half of the people with this disorder seek treatment and usually only after 15–20 years of being symptomatic. Pharmacological and non-pharmacological interventions are equally effective, but pharmacological interventions appear to act more quickly while CBT is longer lasting. Nonetheless, response rates remain in the 50%–70% range, and more studies and research are needed to find ways to help those who do not respond to our current treatments.
Social phobia (also known as social anxiety disorder) is a common and often disabling mental disorder. Individuals with social phobia strongly fear social or performance situations in which they might be exposed to unfamiliar people or be scrutinized by others (American Psychiatric Association, 2000). When confronted with feared situations, individuals with social phobia experience symptoms of anxiety that may reach the level of a panic attack. The discomfort provoked by social encounters or performance situations leads many people with the disorder to avoid interactions with others. Avoidance can produce a marked effect on psychosocial functioning, causing disruptions in occupational, academic, interpersonal, and other daily activities.
Social phobia can present in many different ways and at varying levels of severity.
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