Being in stressful situations significantly affects the psychological state of the individual and can lead to two scenarios: emotional suffering or personal growth. This is especially pronounced when interacting with potentially traumatic experiences (PTEs) (Tsai et al., 2016). In such cases, people often develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), especially military veterans, who are much more likely to experience PTEs. However, such events can even positively impact the personality, expressed in post-traumatic growth and psychological development (Tedeschi et al., 2018).
Many previous studies have highlighted that veterans are more prone to PTG than the general population especially within the domains of life value (Palmer et al., 2017; Pietrzak et al., 2021; Wu et al., 2019). Thus, military personnel is statistically more likely to develop both PTSD and PTG, suggesting a link between the two conditions. However, the nature of these relationships remains unclear, which does not allow us to accurately establish that the presence of PTSD affects the development of PTG.
A more detailed analysis of these states and their relationships will achieve several goals. A thorough understanding of the functioning of PTG will enable identifying the factors influencing its formation. This knowledge, in turn, will make it possible to improve the health and quality of life of veterans and military personnel who have experienced or may experience PTEs. Ultimately, this study may help identify ways to deal with traumatic situations and rehabilitate PTSD.
The primary purpose of this study is to analyze the features of the possible relationship between PTG and PTSD to identify potential positive relationships that may be useful in improving the quality of life of veterans.
Information about veterans participating in this study was obtained using data analysis from the 2019-2020 National Health and Resilience in Veterans Study (NHRVS). As part of this event, 4069 U.S. military veterans were interviewed, of whom 3,764 participated in the current study, reporting exposure to at least one PTE.
Post-traumatic growth was assessed using the Posttraumatic Growth Inventory-Short Form (PTGI-SF). This analysis evaluated scores across five PTG subclasses or domains: personal strength, relating to others, new possibilities, spiritual change, and appreciation of life. The distribution of PTGI-SF scores was zero-inflated, non-normal, and positively skewed, resulting in responses being dichotomized based on any item’s moderate or greater endorsement.
The data were analyzed by computing descriptive statistics to summarize study variables and fitting linear and quadratic functions. After that, we conducted a multivariable logistic regression analysis and a multivariable analysis of variance (MANOVA) among veterans who screened positive for PTSD.
The results obtained during the study are reflected in the figures presented. The prevalence of PTG in the entire sample and among veterans who have been diagnosed with PTSD was allocated to each of the five PTG domains. According to the study’s results, the most relevant and common factor is the appreciation of life, and the least common factor is relating to others.
Figure 1 shows an analysis of the relationship between PTGI-SF scores and PTSD symptom severity. As can be seen from the graph, it was found that the quadratic U-shaped function fits the data best.
Figure 2 shows a pattern found by examining descriptive statistics between PTSD symptom severity and life purpose. Finally, the results of a MANOVA for veterans with PTSD indicated that endorsement of improved social relationships and personal strength was associated with higher mental functioning scores. In contrast, endorsement of personal strength and new possibilities was associated with fewer psychosocial difficulties.
Analysis of the obtained data demonstrates the relationship between post-traumatic growth and PTSD symptoms. In all three figures presented, among veterans with bouts of PTSD, the incidence of PTSD was significantly higher compared to the full sample. These results are combined with data obtained through the analysis of the literature.
In addition, the theses about the predominance of appreciation of life as the main PTG domain were also confirmed. An additional connection was established between PTSD syndromes of moderate intensity and the highest post-traumatic growth. Thus, based on these data, it can be concluded that veterans with mild PTSD syndromes are most likely to be prone to PTG.
Therefore, it is for them that, first of all, it is necessary to develop methods for improving the quality of life, considering PTG, since they will have the greatest efficiency. Assessing which post-traumatic growth domains are dominant and most common is required in developing these methods. In this context, this paper can serve as a reference point for future work and research.
Palmer, E., Murphy, D., & Spencer-Harper, L. (2017). Experience of post-traumatic growth in U.K. veterans with PTSD: A qualitative study. Journal of the Royal Army Medical Corps, 163(3), 171–176. Web.
Pietrzak, R. H., Tsai, J., & Southwick, S. M. (2021). Association of symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder with post-traumatic psychological growth among U.S. veterans during the COVID-19 pandemic. JAMA Network Open, 4(4). Web.
Tedeschi, R. G., Shakespeare-Finch, J., Taku, K., & Calhoun, L. G. (2018). Post-traumatic growth: Theory, research, and applications. Routledge.
Tsai, J., Sippel, L. M., Mota, N., Southwick, S. M., & Pietrzak, R. H. (2016). Longitudinal course of post-traumatic growth among U.S. military veterans: Results from the national health and resilience in veterans study. Depression and Anxiety, 33(1), 9–18. Web..
Wu, X., Kaminga, A. C., Dai, W., Deng, J., Wang, Z., Pan, X., & Liu, A. (2019). The prevalence of moderate-to-high post-traumatic growth: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Affective Disorders, 243, 408–415. Web.