Religion, spirituality, and mental health of U.S. military veterans: Results from the National Health and Resilience in Veterans Study.

Journal Article

In the last three decades, there has been increased interest in studying the association between religion/spirituality (R/S), and mental health and functional outcomes.Using data from a contemporary, nationally representative sample of 3151 U.S. military veterans maintained by GfK Knowledge Networks, Inc., we evaluated the relation between R/S and a broad range of mental health, and psychosocial variables. Veterans were grouped into three groups based on scores on the Duke University Religion Index: High R/S (weighted 11.6%), Moderate R/S (79.7%) and Low R/S (8.7%).A "dose-response" protective association between R/S groups and several mental health outcomes was revealed, even after adjustment for sociodemographic and military variables. High R/S was associated with decreased risk for lifetime posttraumatic stress disorder (odds ratio [OR]=0.46), major depressive disorder (MDD; OR=0.50), and alcohol use disorder (OR=0.66), while Moderate R/S was associated with decreased risk for lifetime MDD (OR=0.66), current suicidal ideation (OR=0.63), and alcohol use disorder (OR=0.76). Higher levels of R/S were also strongly linked with increased dispositional gratitude, purpose in life, and posttraumatic growth.In this cross-sectional study, no conclusions regarding causality can be made. The study provides a current snapshot of the link between R/S and mental health. The study also cannot determine whether religious coping styles (negative vs positive coping) contributed to observed differences.Although the present study does not have treatment implications, our results suggest that higher levels of R/S may help buffer risk for certain mental disorders and promote protective psychosocial characteristics in U.S. military veterans.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Sharma, V; Marin, DB; Koenig, HK; Feder, A; Iacoviello, BM; Southwick, SM; Pietrzak, RH

Published Date

  • August 2017

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 217 /

Start / End Page

  • 197 - 204

PubMed ID

  • 28415007

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1573-2517

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0165-0327

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1016/j.jad.2017.03.071


  • eng