Meaning in life following deployment sexual trauma: Prediction of posttraumatic stress symptoms, depressive symptoms, and suicidal ideation.


VA Connecticut Healthcare System, West Haven, CT, USA; Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT, USA. Electronic address: [Email]


Deployment sexual trauma (DST; i.e., sexual harassment or assault during deployment in the military) is associated with physical and mental health consequences, including posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and suicidal ideation (SI). Less attention has been placed on factors that may offer protection from deleterious mental health outcomes following DST. Global meaning in life (i.e., purpose, beliefs, goals, and subjective feelings) has been shown to be a protective factor against PTSD, depression, and SI following combat trauma; however, the extent to which meaning in life may affect outcomes following DST has not been investigated. Cross-sectional associations and Hayes mediation models were examined using baseline interview data from the Survey of Experiences of Returning Veterans sample (SERV; 850 recently returned veterans, 352 women). DST was associated with post-deployment posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSS), depressive symptoms, and SI severity, and with decreased sense of meaning in life. Further, meaning in life was a significant mediator between DST and each of the three outcomes, even after controlling for demographic variables and combat experiences. The mediation models did not differ by gender. Findings suggest meaning in life may be an important clinical factor, both for the identification of risk and as a point of intervention.


Deployment sexual trauma,Depression,Meaning in life,PTSD,Suicidal ideation,

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