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Functional Quality of Life in Full Versus Partial Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Among Veterans Returning From Iraq and Afghanistan

Prim Care Companion J Clin Psychiatry 2010;12(3):e1-e6
10.4088/PCC.09m00823blu

Objective: This study assessed mental and health functioning in full versus partial posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among newly returning veterans from Iraq (Operation Iraqi Freedom [OIF]) and Afghanistan (Operation Enduring Freedom [OEF]) who were referred by primary care providers for a behavioral health assessment and reported an emotional trauma.

Method: Participants included OEF/OIF veterans receiving care in 2 veterans’ affairs medical centers and affiliated community-based outpatient clinics who reported behavioral health issues to their primary care providers. All veterans underwent a clinical behavioral health assessment of Axis I disorders and functioning via telephone between June 2007 and April 2008. Functioning was measured using the 12-item Short-Form Health Survey (SF-12). Those reporting a previous emotional trauma were subsequently assessed for PTSD using the PTSD Patient Checklist (PCL).

Results: The final sample (N = 201) was 88.1% male with a mean age of 34.2 years (SD = 10.1). Individuals with full PTSD (n = 120, 59.7%) reported worse mental health functioning compared to those with partial PTSD (n = 37, 18.4%). Individuals with partial PTSD reported worse mental health functioning scores than the trauma exposed–only group (n = 44, 21.9%). Compared to national norms, patients with partial PTSD reported mental health functioning scores that were worse than 75% of individuals within a similar age range. After controlling for other psychiatric factors, there was no difference between partial PTSD and the trauma-only group.

Conclusion: OEF/OIF veterans with partial PTSD referred for a behavioral health assessment may incur significant problems with functioning. These complaints may be better attributed to psychiatric comorbidity as opposed to symptoms specifically related to trauma.

Submitted: April 6, 2009; accepted August 4, 2009.

Published online: May 27, 2010.

Corresponding author: Les A. Gellis, PhD, Philadelphia Veterans Medical Center, MIRECC (116, 2nd floor), University & Woodland Avenues, Philadelphia, PA 19104 (lesgellis@gmail.com).