Associations of active-duty mental health trajectories with post-military adjustment: Results from the STARRS Longitudinal Study.

Journal of affective disorders

BACKGROUND: Many servicemembers experience difficulties transitioning from military to civilian life. We examined whether changes in mental health observed during active duty were associated with indices of post-military adjustment.METHODS: Survey data from the multi-wave Army STARRS Pre/Post Deployment Study (PPDS; conducted 2012-2014) were linked to follow-up data from wave 1 of the STARRS Longitudinal Study (STARRS-LS1; conducted 2016-2018). Empirical Bayes estimates of intercepts and slopes of posttraumatic stress, problematic anger, and depressive symptoms during the PPDS were extracted from mixed-effects growth models and evaluated as predictors of life stress among 1080 participants who had separated or retired from the Army at STARRS-LS1; and of job satisfaction among 586 veterans who were employed at STARRS-LS1.RESULTS: Higher average levels and larger increases in posttraumatic stress, anger, and depression over the deployment period were each associated with increased stress and (in the case of anger and depression) reduced job satisfaction. Posttraumatic stress and anger slopes were associated with overall stress (b = 5.60, p < 0.01 and b = 15.64, p = 0.04, respectively) and relationship stress (b = 5.50, p = 0.01 and b = 22.86, p = 0.01, respectively) beyond the average levels of those symptoms.LIMITATIONS: Some transition-related difficulties may have resolved before outcome assessment; some measures were not previously validated.CONCLUSIONS: Larger increases in posttraumatic stress and anger over a deployment period were associated with increased stress after leaving the Army, even after controlling for average symptom levels during the same period. Monitoring changes in mental health during active duty may help identify personnel who need additional support to facilitate the military-to-civilian transition.

Year of Publication
Journal of affective disorders
Date Published
PubMed ID