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Purpose in Life and Conscientiousness Protect Against the Development of Suicidal Ideation in U.S. Military Veterans With PTSD and MDD: Results From the National Health and Resilience in Veterans Study.

  • Author(s): Straus, Elizabeth
  • Norman, Sonya B
  • Tripp, Jessica C
  • Pitts, Michelle
  • Pietrzak, Robert H
  • et al.
Abstract

Background:Although several studies have examined risk factors for suicidal ideation among veterans, little is known about risk and protective factors for suicidal ideation in high-risk veteran samples. Thus, this study examined a broad range of risk and protective factors associated with the development of suicidal ideation in a high-risk sample of U.S. veterans who screened positive for current posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and/or major depressive disorder (MDD). Methods:Data were analyzed from the National Health and Resilience in Veterans Study, a nationally representative, prospective cohort study of U.S. veterans. Veterans completed self-report measures to screen for PTSD and MDD and to assess for risk and protective factors. The sample included 222 veterans with PTSD and/or MDD who did not endorse suicidal ideation at baseline and completed at least one assessment over a seven-year follow-up period. A multivariable binary logistic regression analysis was conducted to examine baseline factors associated with incident suicidal ideation. Results:Nearly one in three (27.1%) of veterans with PTSD and/or MDD developed suicidal ideation over the seven-year follow-up period. Non-Caucasian race and lower scores on measures of purpose in life, conscientiousness, and frequency of religious service attendance were independently associated with incident suicidal ideation. Lower purpose in life (52.3%) and conscientiousness (33.2%) explained the vast majority of variance in incident suicidal ideation. Conclusion:Nearly 30% of veterans with PTSD and/or MDD who did not endorse suicidal ideation at baseline developed suicidal ideation over a seven-year period. Prevention and treatment efforts designed to bolster purpose in life and conscientiousness may help mitigate risk for suicidal ideation in this high-risk population.

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