Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in U.S. Military Primary Care

Trajectories and Predictors of One-Year Prognosis

Published in: Journal of Traumatic Stress, v. 29, no. 4, Aug. 2016, p. 340-348

Posted on RAND.org on August 26, 2016

by Robert M. Bray, Charles C. Engel, Jason Williams, Lisa H. Jaycox, Marian E. Lane, Jessica K. Morgan, Jurgen Unutzer

Read More

Access further information on this document at Journal of Traumatic Stress

This article was published outside of RAND. The full text of the article can be found at the link above.

We examined the longitudinal course of primary care patients in the active duty Army with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and identified prognostic indicators of PTSD severity. Data were drawn from a 6-site randomized trial of collaborative primary care for PTSD and depression in the military. Subjects were 474 soldiers with PTSD (scores ≥ 50 on the PTSD Checklist -Civilian Version). Four assessments were completed at U.S. Army installations: baseline, and follow-ups at 3 months (92.8% response rate [RR]), 6 months (90.1% RR), and 12 months (87.1% RR). Combat exposure and 7 validated indicators of baseline clinical status (alcohol misuse, depression, pain, somatic symptoms, low mental health functioning, low physical health functioning, mild traumatic brain injury) were used to predict PTSD symptom severity on the Posttraumatic Diagnostic Scale (Cronbach's α = .87, .92, .95, .95, at assessments 1–4, respectively). Growth mixture modeling identified 2 PTSD symptom trajectories: subjects reporting persistent symptoms (Persisters, 81.9%, n = 388), and subjects reporting improved symptoms (Improvers 18.1%, n = 86). Logistic regression modeling examined baseline predictors of symptom trajectories, adjusting for demographics, installation, and treatment condition. Subjects who reported moderate combat exposure, adjusted odds ratio (OR) = 0.44, 95% CI [0.20, 0.98], or who reported high exposure, OR = 0.39, 95% CI [0.17, 0.87], were less likely to be Improvers. Other baseline clinical problems were not related to symptom trajectories. Findings suggested that most military primary care patients with PTSD experience persistent symptoms, highlighting the importance of improving the effectiveness of their care. Most indicators of clinical status offered little prognostic information beyond the brief assessment of combat exposure.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation external publication series. Many RAND studies are published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals, as chapters in commercial books, or as documents published by other organizations.

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.