HEALTH / WELL-BEING

The impact of a civic service program on biopsychosocial outcomes of post 9/11 U.S. military veterans

Article

This article explores the biopsychosocial impact on veterans of volunteering. This research surveyed veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, and sought to assess whether volunteering impacts on a variety of biopsychosocial outcomes, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression. This research found statistically significant differences in veterans’ self-reporting before and after participation, and suggests that volunteering, particularly via a veteran-specific civic service programme, is associated with significant improvements in health, mental health and social outcomes and may be of benefit for the reintegration, health and well-being of this population.

Abstract

Volunteering as a health promotion intervention, improves physical health, mental health, and social outcomes particularly in older adults, yet limited research exists for veterans. We conducted a preliminary study to explore whether volunteering impacts a variety of biopsychosocial outcomes, including symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression, among returning military veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan. A survey enrolling a prospective cohort of United States (U.S.) veterans who served in the military after 11 September 2001 and who participated in a national civic service program was conducted. A total of 346 veterans completed standardized health, mental health, and psychosocial self-report measures before and after the program. Statistically significant differences were detected in overall health rating, level of emotional difficulty, PTSD and depression symptoms, purpose in life, self-efficacy, social isolation, and the perceived availability of social support at program completion. Screening positive for probable PTSD predicted improved perceived self-efficacy while probable depression predicted a decrease in loneliness, an increase in purpose in life, and an increase in perceived social support, at program completion. Volunteering was associated with significant improvements in health, mental health and social outcomes in returning veterans.

Full Reference

Matthieu, M. M., Lawrence, K. A. and Robertson-Blackmore, E., 2017. The impact of a civic service program on biopsychosocial outcomes of post 9/11 U.S. military veterans. Psychiatry Research, 248, 111-116.