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The Role of Social Support in Understanding the Relationship Between PTSD, Physical Health, and VHA Utilization in Women

Lehavot, K., Der-Martirosian, C., Simpson T. L., Shipherd, J.C., Washington, D. L. Journal of Traumatic Stress. 2013; 26(6): 772-775.

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a significant predictor of both poorer physical health and increased health care utilization, whereas adequate social support is associated with better physical health and less health care utilization. However, research has not previously examined the simultaneous effects of PTSD and social support on health and health care utilization. This study examined both the independent and interactive effects of PTSD and a particular type of social support (postactive-duty social support from military friends) on self-reported physical health and number of Veterans Health Administration (VHA) visits in the last year. These relationships were examined in a representative, national sample of 3,524 women veterans who completed telephone interviews as part of the National Survey of Women Veterans in 2008–2009. Regression analyses were conducted using these cross-sectional data to examine main effects of PTSD and military social support on physical health and VHA utilization and their interaction. Screening positive for PTSD was associated with poorer health (B=−3.19, SE = 1.47) and increased VHA utilization (B = 0.98, SE = 0.16), whereas greater military social support was associated with better health (B = 0.97, SE = 0.44) and less frequent VHA utilization (B=−0.15, SE = 0.05). Neither moderation model was significant, such that military social support behaved in a similar way regardless of PTSD status.

 

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