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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.
There is a substantial proportion of patients who drop out of treatment before they receive minimally adequate care. They tend to have worse health outcomes than those who complete treatment. Our main goal is to describe the frequency and determinants of dropout from treatment for mental disorders in low-, middle-, and high-income countries.
Respondents from 13 low- or middle-income countries (N = 60 224) and 15 in high-income countries (N = 77 303) were screened for mental and substance use disorders. Cross-tabulations were used to examine the distribution of treatment and dropout rates for those who screened positive. The timing of dropout was examined using Kaplan–Meier curves. Predictors of dropout were examined with survival analysis using a logistic link function.
Dropout rates are high, both in high-income (30%) and low/middle-income (45%) countries. Dropout mostly occurs during the first two visits. It is higher in general medical rather than in specialist settings (nearly 60% v. 20% in lower income settings). It is also higher for mild and moderate than for severe presentations. The lack of financial protection for mental health services is associated with overall increased dropout from care.
Extending financial protection and coverage for mental disorders may reduce dropout. Efficiency can be improved by managing the milder clinical presentations at the entry point to the mental health system, providing adequate training, support and specialist supervision for non-specialists, and streamlining referral to psychiatrists for more severe cases.
Research exploring the longitudinal course of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms has documented four modal trajectories (low, remitting, high, and delayed), with proportions varying across studies. Heterogeneity could be due to differences in trauma types and patient demographic characteristics.
This analysis pooled data from six longitudinal studies of adult survivors of civilian-related injuries admitted to general hospital emergency departments (EDs) in six countries (pooled N = 3083). Each study included at least three assessments of the clinician-administered PTSD scale in the first post-trauma year. Latent class growth analysis determined the proportion of participants exhibiting various PTSD symptom trajectories within and across the datasets. Multinomial logistic regression analyses examined demographic characteristics, type of event leading to the injury, and trauma history as predictors of trajectories differentiated by their initial severity and course.
Five trajectories were found across the datasets: Low (64.5%), Remitting (16.9%), Moderate (6.7%), High (6.5%), and Delayed (5.5%). Female gender, non-white race, prior interpersonal trauma, and assaultive injuries were associated with increased risk for initial PTSD reactions. Female gender and assaultive injuries were associated with risk for membership in the Delayed (v. Low) trajectory, and lower education, prior interpersonal trauma, and assaultive injuries with risk for membership in the High (v. Remitting) trajectory.
The results suggest that over 30% of civilian-related injury survivors admitted to EDs experience moderate-to-high levels of PTSD symptoms within the first post-trauma year, with those reporting assaultive violence at increased risk of both immediate and longer-term symptoms.
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.
Increased post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) rates have been documented in children exposed to war. However, the contribution of childhood adversities and environmental sensitivity to children's responses to adversities and trauma are still far from settled.
To evaluate the relative roles of war, childhood adversities and sensitivity in the genesis of PTSD.
Data on childhood adversities and sensitivity was collected from 549 Syrian refugee children in Lebanon. PTSD symptoms were assessed using the PTSD Reaction Index.
Although childhood adversities, war events and sensitivity were all significantly related to PTSD in bivariate analyses, multivariate analyses showed that childhood adversities were the most important variable in predicting PTSD. The effect of war on PTSD was found to be dependent on the interplay between childhood adversities and sensitivity, and was most prominent in highly sensitive children with lower levels of adversities; in sensitive children experiencing high levels of adversities, the effects of war exposure on PTSD were less pronounced.
When considering the effects of war on PTSD in refugee children, it is important to take account of the presence of other adversities as well as of children's sensitivity. Sensitive children may be more vulnerable to the negative effects of war exposure, but only in contexts that are characterised by low childhood adversities.
The prevalence of mental disorders among Black, Latino, and Asian adults is lower than among Whites. Factors that explain these differences are largely unknown. We examined whether racial/ethnic differences in exposure to traumatic events (TEs) or vulnerability to trauma-related psychopathology explained the lower rates of psychopathology among racial/ethnic minorities.
We estimated the prevalence of TE exposure and associations with onset of DSM-IV depression, anxiety and substance disorders and with lifetime post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the Collaborative Psychiatric Epidemiology Surveys, a national sample (N = 13 775) with substantial proportions of Black (35.9%), Latino (18.9%), and Asian Americans (14.9%).
TE exposure varied across racial/ethnic groups. Asians were most likely to experience organized violence – particularly being a refugee – but had the lowest exposure to all other TEs. Blacks had the greatest exposure to participation in organized violence, sexual violence, and other TEs, Latinos had the highest exposure to physical violence, and Whites were most likely to experience accidents/injuries. Racial/ethnic minorities had lower odds ratios of depression, anxiety, and substance disorder onset relative to Whites. Neither variation in TE exposure nor vulnerability to psychopathology following TEs across racial/ethnic groups explained these differences. Vulnerability to PTSD did vary across groups, however, such that Asians were less likely and Blacks more likely to develop PTSD following TEs than Whites.
Lower prevalence of mental disorders among racial/ethnic minorities does not appear to reflect reduced vulnerability to TEs, with the exception of PTSD among Asians. This highlights the importance of investigating other potential mechanisms underlying racial/ethnic differences in psychopathology.