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Post-traumatic growth in the military: a systematic review
  1. Katharine M Mark1,
  2. Sharon A M Stevelink1,
  3. Jeesoo Choi2,
  4. Nicola T Fear1,3
  1. 1 King’s Centre for Military Health Research, King’s College London, London, UK
  2. 2 School of Medicine, King’s College London, London, UK
  3. 3 Academic Department of Military Mental Health, King’s College London, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Katharine M Mark, King’s Centre for Military Health Research, King’s College London, London, SE5 9RJ, UK; katharine.mark{at}kcl.ac.uk

Abstract

Background Post-traumatic growth is defined as positive psychological, social or spiritual growth after a trauma.

Objectives This systematic review aimed to identify studies that quantitatively measured post-traumatic growth among (ex-) military personnel, to determine whether there is evidence of growth in this context and whether such growth is associated with any sociodemographic, military, trauma or mental health factors.

Data sources The electronic databases PsycInfo, OVIDmedline and Embase were searched for studies published between 2001 and 2017.

Study eligibility criteria and participants Papers were retained if they involved military or ex-military personnel, where some had been deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan.

Study appraisal Quality assessment was conducted on all studies.

Results 21 studies were retained. The Post-Traumatic Growth Inventory was employed by 14 studies: means ranged from 32.60 (standard deviation = 14.88) to 59.07 (23.48). The Post-Traumatic Growth Inventory Short Form was used by five studies: means ranged from 17.11 (14.88) to 20.40 (11.88). These values suggest moderate growth. Higher levels of social support, spirituality and rumination and minority ethnicity were most frequently associated with more post-traumatic growth.

Limitations The involved studies may lack generalisability and methodological quality.

Conclusions Overall, this paper confirms that negative reactions to trauma, particularly post-traumatic stress disorder, are not the only possible outcomes for service personnel, as moderate post-traumatic growth can also be observed.

Implications of key findings Interventions aimed at helping current and former armed forces personnel to identify and promote post-traumatic growth post-conflict may be beneficial for their well-being.

  • military personel
  • post-traumatic growth
  • veterans
  • systematic review
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Footnotes

  • Contributors Study concept and design: SAMS, JC and NTF. Acquisition, analysis or interpretation of data: KMM and JC. Drafting of the manuscript: KMM and JC. Critical revision of the manuscript for important intellectual content: all authors. Statistical analysis: KMM. Administrative, technical or material support: SAMS. Study supervision: SAMS and NTF.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests NTF is a trustee of a veterans’ charity.

  • Patient consent Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement There are no unpublished data from the study.

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