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Greater PTSD Severity and Posttraumatic Growth in Older Veterans

October 28, 2020

Greater severity of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms was associated with greater post-traumatic growth over 4 years in older, trauma-exposed US military veterans, according to a study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders.

“Post-traumatic growth refers to positive psychological changes that may occur after experiencing a traumatic event,” researchers wrote. “While cross-sectional studies have suggested that PTSD is associated with greater post-traumatic growth, few longitudinal studies have evaluated interrelationships between PTSD and post-traumatic growth.” 

The 4-year prospective study involved a nationally representative cohort of 2006 older veterans exposed to trauma.  

Greater severity of the avoidance symptoms and anxious arousal symptoms, such as hypervigilance, at Wave 1 of the study predicted greater post-traumatic growth at Wave 2, researchers reported. Greater severity of avoidance and lower severity of sleep disturbance and other dysphoric arousal symptoms at Wave 2 predicted greater post-traumatic growth at Wave 3.

Active coping and religious coping, meanwhile, were associated with greater subsequent post-traumatic growth, according to the study. 

Interventions that promote deliberate, constructive attempts to manage chronic PTSD symptoms via active coping and religious coping may help veterans better manage PTSD symptoms and experience greater post-traumatic growth in late-life,” researchers advised. 

Jolynn Tumolo


Whealin JM, Pitts B, Tsai J, et al. Dynamic interplay between PTSD symptoms and posttraumatic growth in older military veterans. J Affect Disord. 2020;269:185-191. doi:10.1016/j.jad.2020.03.020

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