16 Sep Employment Woes Among Veterans Are Compounded by Substance Abuse, Mental Disorders
For U.S. veterans, settling back into everyday life after deployment can be a struggle. Some suffer from anxiety, depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Some self-medicate with alcohol or drugs, which can lead to addiction.
All of these problems are associated with difficulties maintaining stable employment.
A recent study published in the journal Psychiatric Services provides information about the rates of unemployment among veterans returning from service.
The researchers recruited 5,729 veterans receiving treatment for substance abuse through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs between 2001 and 2010. The participants had a mean age of 49, and 3 percent were female. The participants were evaluated through self-report for substance use, psychiatric symptoms and family and social status. The evaluation was conducted at admission to the treatment program and again between three and nine months following admission.
Using the information gathered in the assessment, the researchers coded the patients according to anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts or other medical concerns at the time of admission. The participants were also coded according to whether they had gainful employment in the 30 days prior to admission and prior to the follow-up point.
The researchers then evaluated the participants to determine whether those who had a psychiatric or general medical problem when admitted were less likely to have earnings or any paid work during the past 30 days before admission when compared to patients without these conditions.
Nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of the veterans had no earnings in the past month or any paid days of work. At the follow-up point, 68 percent had no past-month earnings and 65 percent had no past-month days of paid work.
Veterans who had anxiety and general medical problems when admitted for substance abuse treatment were less likely to report any past-month earnings compared to veterans without the conditions when the follow-up was conducted. Depression and suicidal ideation were both not found to be connected with a lower rate of employment.
The authors of the study note that there were several limitations that could impact the applicability of the results. For instance, the researchers did not assess the patients according to DSM-V criteria for psychiatric evaluations, nor did they use a formal diagnosis tool to assess for medical conditions. The research was, instead, based on self-report by the patients, which may not have reflected severity.
The authors say that the use of a stringent set of criteria may have led to a more robust set of results. In specific, the authors did not have any measurement tool to evaluate for PTSD in the patients.
The findings are also not useful for generalizing to the general public, but instead are applicable only to veterans who are in substance abuse treatment. In addition, the seeking out of substance abuse treatment may have some kind of relationship with employment rates. Those not seeking treatment help may have even lower rates of employment.
Finally, the follow-up period for the study was relatively short, given that the associations examined were substance abuse and employment for veterans, which may require a more lengthy time to resolve.
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