Society & Culture - Posted by Tom Hughes-UNC on Wednesday, June 27, 2012 11:46 - 1 Comment
Survey ties poverty and violence among veterans
UNC-CHAPEL HILL (US) — A survey of US military veterans finds that those who didn’t have enough money to cover basic needs were more likely to report aggressive behavior than veterans with PTSD.
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).
The survey results may help identify strategies to help reduce the likelihood of violence once service members return home.
Straight from the Source
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 in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, the result of a National Institute of Mental Health-funded study led by Eric B. Elbogen, Research Director of the Forensic Psychiatry Program in the University of North Carolina School of Medicine.
“When you hear about veterans committing acts of violence, many people assume that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or combat exposure are to blame,” says Elbogen, who is also a psychologist with the US Department of Veterans Affairs. “But our study shows that is not necessarily true.”
The national survey reveals 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.
“Our study suggests the incidence of violence could be reduced by helping veterans develop and maintain protective factors in their lives back home,” Elbogen says.
The survey was conducted between July 2009 and April 2010. Responses were collected from 1,388 veterans who served in the Iraq and Afghanistan War era and theater after September 11, 2001. The sample included veterans from all branches of the US military and all 50 states.
One-third of survey respondents reported having committed an act of aggression towards others in the past year, most of which involved relatively minor aggressive behavior.
Eleven percent of the sample reported more severe violence. Elbogen notes, “Although the majority of study participants did not report aggression, the potential for violence does remain a significant concern among a subset of returning veterans.”
Sally Johnson, co-author and professor in the Forensic Psychiatry Program, points out, “Some veterans do not cope well with the loss of the structure, social, and financial support available in the military environment. Attention to helping veterans establish psychosocial stability in the civilian environment can help reduce post-deployment adjustment problems including aggression.”
The other co-authors are researchers affiliated with the Department of Veterans Affairs.
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