Post-traumatic growth in (ex-) military personnel: systematic review and qualitative synthesis

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Abstract

Background
Military service can be a traumatic experience and cause mental health problems in a minority of personnel, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which is linked to negative long-term outcomes. As a result, PTSD has received significant research attention. However, post-traumatic growth (PTG) is a newer construct, with comparatively little known about its presentation and development.

Aims
To qualitatively examine the experience of (PTG) in military and ex-military personnel.

Methods
A qualitative systematic search of electronic databases was conducted, with studies assessed for methodological quality and data analysed using thematic analysis. Nine qualitative studies, carried out between 2011 and 2016, met the inclusion criteria with 195 participants in total, including both military and ex-military personnel.

Results
Six themes were identified: appreciation for life, re-evaluating sense of purpose, improvement of personal human traits, bonding and connecting with others, integrating into society, and being proud of heritage and feeling valuable to society.

Conclusions
The results of this review illustrate that military personnel may experience PTG due to deployment-related trauma exposure, and the presentation of PTG in this population is not dissimilar to that of civilians. This study highlights the need for additional research to quantify the long-term psychological impact of PTG and whether a focus on PTG may be helpful in psychological treatment for (ex-) military personnel.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)617–625
JournalOccupational Medicine
Volume68
Issue number9
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 26 Dec 2018

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