How the Potential Benefits of Active Combat Events May Partially Offset Their Costs

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Abstract

The present research examined how particular types of combat exposure may be associated not only with increased mental health symptoms but also with perceived benefits that are associated with decreased mental health symptoms. Using a longitudinal sample of military personnel who had returned from combat in Iraq or Afghanistan, active combat experiences (such as shooting or directing fire at the enemy) were related to higher levels of perceived benefits following the deployment, whereas passive experiences (such as being the recipient of an attack or witnessing destruction) were not. Perceived benefits 3 months postdeployment were associated with lower posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms 3 months later. A mediational analysis revealed that although active combat experiences were associated with greater PTSD symptoms, a portion of this relationship was reduced as a result of the association between active combat experiences and benefit finding. Discussion focuses on additional research needed on the role of benefit finding in postcombat adjustment, and how employees may derive benefits from their work that predict future mental health symptoms.

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