POSTTRAUMATIC GROWTH AND BIOMARKERS OF CHRONIC STRESS AMONG COMBAT VETERANS OF OPERATIONS ENDURING AND IRAQI FREEDOM
1 online resource (83 pages) : PDF
University of North Carolina at Charlotte
Cardiovascular diseases (CVD) are a significant public health problem, representing the leading cause of death in U.S. military combat Veterans. Following deployment, combat Veterans are at an increased risk for CVD due to chronic in-theater exposure to physical and psychosocial stressors. Growing evidence suggests that experiencing posttraumatic growth (PTG), or positive psychological change in the aftermath of trauma, may convey salutary health benefits and increase physical and psychological wellness of combat Veterans. However, scant research has sought to examine if PTG buffers against the adverse effects of combat exposure in combat veterans. Therefore, the present study investigated (1) differences in the diurnal slope of cortisol and morning C-reactive protein (CRP) levels based on trauma perception, and (2) if PTG buffered against adverse effects of stress as indicated by cortisol and CRP in a sample of male combat veterans (N=33) of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Results did not reveal significant differences in either cortisol or CRP based on trauma perception; however, PTG significantly interacted with perceived stress such that the cortisol slope of individuals reporting a greater degree of PTG flattened and became positive as perceived stress levels increased on Day 2. Relatedly, those individuals reporting lower levels of PTG at higher levels of stress did not demonstrate higher levels of cortisol. These findings may reflect the processes by which one seeks to reconstruct their assumptive worldview in the aftermath of trauma, and provide initial physiological support for the notion that PTG is a not just an outcome, but is also a process requiring bodily support in the form of physiological energy sources (i.e., cortisol). Because this study was cross-sectional and was not powered to detect small effects, larger samples and prospective designs may reveal additional effects of PTG. Future work is warranted before causal assumptions can be made.
Bennett, JeanetteCanevello, AmyElnitsky, Christine
Thesis (M.A.)--University of North Carolina at Charlotte, 2016.
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