Deployment Length, Inflammatory Markers, and Ambulatory Blood Pressure in Military Couples

Published in: Military Medicine, Volume 182 Issue 70 (July 2017), pages e1892-e1899. doi: 10.7205/MILMED-D-16-00327

Posted on RAND.org on August 04, 2017

by Stephanie Brooks Holliday, Amy Soo Jin DeSantis, Anne Germain, Daniel J. Buysse, Karen A. Matthews, Wendy M. Troxel

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Introduction

Changes in the frequency, duration, and nature of military deployments over the past 14 years have spurred efforts to understand the effects of deployment on the health of military service members and their spouses. However, few studies have examined the impact of deployments on health outcomes in both veterans and their partners. This study aims to examine the association between deployment length and health, including ambulatory blood pressure (BP) and stress-related markers of inflammation, in military veterans and their spouses.

Materials and Methods

This study includes 32 male veterans and 29 female civilian partners. Veterans reported about their deployment and military experiences, including deployment length, combat exposure, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms. Plasma measures of inflammatory markers, C-reactive protein (CRP) and interleukin 6 (IL-6), were collected from veterans and spouses. Participants also completed 48 hours of BP monitoring for calculation of mean arterial pressure (MAP) during wakefulness and sleep, and sleep/wake MAP ratio, as an indicator BP nondipping. Regression models examined the association between deployment length and each outcome in the combined sample of veterans and their spouses, including tests of interactions between gender and deployment length, controlling for age, gender, waist circumference, current PTSD, and combat exposure.

Results

Longer deployment length was associated with higher CRP levels in veterans and their spouses, although this effect became nonsignificant when limiting analyses to individuals with CRP [less than or equal to] 10 mg/L. There was a significant gender by deployment length interaction effect on MAP ratio, such that longer deployments were associated with higher MAP ratios in female spouses. There was no significant effect of combat exposure in these models.

Conclusion

Longer deployments are associated with health-related markers in military veterans as well as their spouses. These results suggest the importance of monitoring health during and postdeployment, and of finding ways to mitigate the adverse impact of deployment on health in both members of military couples.

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