Mental Health Outcomes in Military Veterans: A Latent Growth Curve Model

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Abstract

Some research has suggested that income and mental health are related in the general population. In the present study, we examined the relationship between income and mental health among military service members and veterans. Researchers examined veteran respondents from the 2011–2014 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (2011, n = 64,594; 2012, n = 59,870; 2013, n = 61,505; 2014, n = 62,120), comparing the frequency of poor mental health days in the last 30 days and income levels. Individual-level data were aggregated to the state-level to permit spatiotemporal analysis. Mental health across states varied over the studied period; some states’ mental health indicators improved, whereas some declined. Changes in income predicted changes in mental health among veterans in each state from 2011 to 2014; states with deceases in the percentage of veterans making <$15,000 per year exhibited decreases in poor mental health days. The results illuminate the relationship between mental health and income for military veterans by geographic region. Veteran mental health was at its worst with symptoms reported most frequently (in days) in states with higher percentages of veterans living in poverty. The variability of mental health outcomes by state can be used to inform future programming to meet the needs of military personnel reintegrating into their civilian communities.

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