Premorbid traumatic stress and veteran responses to the COVID-19 pandemic

This article was originally published here

J Trauma Stress. 2021 Dec 3. doi: 10.1002/jts.22770. Online ahead of print.


The COVID-19 pandemic has had unprecedented effects on lifestyle stability and physical and mental health. We examined the impact of preexisting posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), alcohol use disorder (AUD), and depression on biopsychosocial responses to the pandemic, including psychiatric symptoms, COVID-19 exposure, and housing/financial stability, among 101 U.S. military veterans enrolled in a longitudinal study of PTSD, a population of particular interest given veterans’ trauma histories and defense-readiness training. Participants (83.2% male, 79.2% White, Mage = 59.28 years) completed prepandemic, clinician-administered psychiatric diagnostic interviews and a phone-based assessment between May and September 2020 using a new measure, the Rapid Assessment of COVID-19-Related Experiences (RACE), which was used to assess pandemic responses and its effects on mental and physical health; COVID-19 diagnosis and testing were also extracted from electronic medical records. Multivariate regressions showed that, controlling for demographic characteristics, prepandemic PTSD, β = .332; p = .003, and AUD symptoms, β = .228; p = .028, were associated with increased pandemic-related PTSD symptoms. Prepandemic AUD was associated with increased substance use during the pandemic, β = .391; p < .001, and higher rates of self-reported or medical record-based COVID-19 diagnosis, β = .264; p = .019. Minority race was associated with pandemic-related housing/financial instability, β = -.372; p < .001, raising concerns of population inequities. The results suggest that preexisting PTSD and AUD are markers for adverse pandemic-related psychiatric outcomes and COVID-19 illness. These findings carry implications for the importance of targeting prevention and treatment efforts for the highest-risk individuals.

PMID:34861065 | DOI:10.1002/jts.22770