The Association Between Combat Exposure and Negative Behavioral and Psychiatric Conditions

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Abstract

This study evaluated the association between cumulative combat exposures and negative behavioral and psychiatric conditions. A total of 6128 active-duty soldiers completed a survey approximately 6 months after their unit’s most recent combat deployment. The soldiers self-reported combat exposures and behavioral and psychiatric conditions. Multivariable logistic regression was used to assess the association between cumulative combat exposures and behavioral and psychiatric outcomes. In comparison with the referent group of soldiers not previously deployed, the soldiers categorized as having the highest cumulative combat exposures were significantly associated with self-reporting a history of behavioral and psychiatric diagnoses, problematic alcohol misuse, aggression, criminal behavior, and physical altercations with a significant other. The magnitude and the consistency of the association among the soldiers with the highest number of combat exposures suggest that the number of cumulative combat deployment exposures is an important consideration for identifying and treating high-risk soldiers and units returning from combat.

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