HEALTH / WELL-BEING

A Life-span Perspective on Combat Exposure and PTSD Symptoms in Later Life: Findings From the VA Normative Aging Study

Article

This article considers a life-span model of combat exposure on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms in later life, examining the direct and indirect effects of prewar, warzone, and postwar factors amongst United States World War II and Korean War veterans.

Abstract

We tested a life-span model of combat exposure on posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms in later life, examining the direct and indirect effects of prewar, warzone, and postwar factors. The sample included 947 male World War II and Korean War veterans from the VA Normative Aging Study (Mage = 65, SD = 7). They completed mail surveys on childhood family environment, military service and postwar experience, stressful life events, and PTSD symptoms (response rates > 80%). We constructed an initial path model testing cumulative advantage and disadvantage pathways. Although all hypothesized relationships were significant, the model was not a good fit to the data. Subsequent models showed that all three life-span periods had both direct and indirect effects on PTSD symptoms and that there were interesting cross-links between the two sets of pathways. The life-span perspective provides a useful heuristic to model various developmental effects on later-life outcomes. A supportive childhood family environment can have lifelong protective effects, whereas a conflictual one can set up lifelong patterns of pessimistic appraisals.

Full Reference

Kang, S., Aldwin, C.M., Choun, S., Spiro, A., 2016. A Life-span Perspective on Combat Exposure and PTSD Symptoms in Later Life: Findings From the VA Normative Aging Study. The Gerontologist. 56:1, 22-32.