A national survey identifies which U.S. military veterans may be at most risk of aggression after deployment and what strategies could potentially help reduce likelihood of violence when service members return home.
The study examined protective factors that are important in preventing violence, including employment, meeting basic needs, living stability, social support, spiritual faith, ability to care for oneself, perceived self-determination, and resilience (ability to adapt to stress). Veterans with these factors in place were 92 percent less likely to report severe violence than veterans who did not endorse these factors. The majority of veterans (over three-quarters of those studied) did endorse most of these protective factors and thus posed a low threat of violence.
These findings are reported in an article published June 25, 2012 in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry of a National Institute of Mental Health-funded study led by Eric B. Elbogen, PhD, Research Director of the Forensic Psychiatry Program in the University of North Carolina School of Medicine and Psychologist in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
"When you hear about veterans committing acts of violence, many people assume that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or combat exposure are to blame," Elbogen said. "But our study shows that is not necessarily true." The national survey revealed that other factors are just as important to understanding violence in veterans, including alcohol misuse, criminal background, as well as veterans' living, work, social, and financial circumstances. In fact, the survey found that veterans who didn't have enough money to cover basic needs were more likely to report aggressive behavior than veterans with PTSD.