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HEALTH / WELL-BEING

Childhood adversity and mental health in veterans seeking treatment for mental health difficulties: Comparisons with the general military population

December, 2019
Article:

This study aimed to collect the rates of childhood adversity in veterans seeking treatment for mental health difficulties. To do this a sample of 403 help seeking veterans were surveyed. The rate of childhood adversity in the sample of veterans is then compared to rates of childhood adversity in non veterans.  The study found that 44% (178) of the veteran sample reported experiencing 6 or more adverse childhood events, this is compared to 24% of non veterans that experienced adverse childhood events. The study concludes by making a number of recommendations for the care and support of veterans.

Abstract

Objective: The aims of the present study were to measure childhood adversity in veterans seeking treatment for mental health difficulties and to compare rates of childhood adversity with the general military population. Further, the study explored associations between childhood adversity and mental health difficulties and demographic variables. Method: Participants were recruited from a U.K. veterans mental health charity and completed surveys relating to childhood adversity, mental health, and demographic variables. Ratings of childhood adversity were compared with data previously collected from the wider U.K. military population. Logistic regression analyses were used to explore associations between childhood adversity, mental health, and demographic factors. Results: In total, 44% of veterans (N = 178/403) reported experiencing 6 or more adverse events in childhood, compared with 24% in the general military population. Many participants reported drug and alcohol misuse or domestic violence between parents. PTSD, anger, and brain injury were all related to high childhood adversity. Conclusions: Veterans who are seeking help for mental health difficulties report experiencing a high amount of adversity in childhood, suggesting they are more likely to present with complex mental health profiles. Clinicians working with veterans would benefit from assessment for childhood adversity in formulating mental health difficulties in this population. The Armed Forces and those involved in postdeployment health care have a duty to continue to provide and improve effective mental health assessments and interventions to ensure veterans have access to appropriate support and treatments.

Full Reference

Murphy D, Turgoose D. Childhood adversity and mental health in veterans seeking treatment for mental health difficulties: Comparisons with the general military population. Psychol Trauma. 2019 Dec 23. doi: 10.1037/tra0000538. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 31868375.

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