A recent Australian report outlines the findings of a literature review detailing the interconnected physical, mental, and social needs of veterans.

Veteran numbers have grown globally in the past decade, especially since the return of armed forces members from Iraq and Afghanistan. The American Department of Defense estimates that there will be as many as 200,000 veterans in the coming years and accompanying care must be available to match. The spectrum of care needed to help veterans in large, with psychological help needed most in the struggle to transition from military to civilian life. A recent data review sought to discover the factors associated with the mental, physical, and social needs of veterans in addition to defining those needs for future study.

These findings, published in BMC Psychiatry, used relevant criteria for a rapid literature review including veterans longer in active service and exploring the physical, mental, and social health of veterans. There were 320 abstracts that fell within the parameters set forth by researchers. Of these, 21 abstracts, conducted between 2003 and 2016 were used in the quality review. The majority of the systematic reviews focused on veteran mental health (81%) with physical (67%) and social (48%) factors following behind. The reviews examined the veteran’s social well-being, physical well-being, and mental wellbeing.

Perhaps, more importantly, was the interconnection between all three aspects of veteran well-being. The major patterns identified were PTSD, traumatic brain injury, and substance abuse or homelessness for mental, physical, and social well-being, respectively. A PTSD diagnosis increased veteran health risk and decreased social stability. Gender also played heavily into mental health with female veterans experiencing more mental health problems than men in the reviews studied.

This important study demonstrates the need for comprehensive care for veterans that includes an emphasis on the social, mental, and physical well-being of veterans. This rapid review of the literature encompasses many aspects of veteran health. The researchers hope that by demonstrating the need for comprehensive veteran health, wellness will not be limited to just one area but an entire interconnected system of care.

Written by Cooper Powers, BSc

Reference: Oster, C., Morello, A., Venning, A., Redpath, P., Lawn, S. (2017). The health and wellbeing needs of veterans: a rapid review. BMC Psychiatry, 17(1): 414. DOI 10.1186/s12888-017-1547-0

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