Chronic stress, PTSD and combat exposure contribute to poor health among soldiers, USF Nursing study reports
A combination of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and war zone deployment among military service members may be related to long-term poor health, a USF College of Nursing study reports.
The study, led by Maureen Groer, PhD, RN, FAAN, Gordon Keller professor at USF College of Nursing, found that chronic stress associated with depression, PTSD and war zone experiences may be related to long-term health issues in active-duty soldiers.
Dr. Groer and her team of researchers analyzed data from 52 military service members and reservist soldiers in the U.S. Army and National Guard, ages 19 to 42. To conduct the study, they used soldiers’ blood samples and hair samples shaved from the forearm.
“In this study we found that many soldiers, who were considered to be fit and healthy, had depression, PTSD and high level of hair cortisol (a major stress hormone) suggesting that they are stressed and they stay stressed,” Dr. Groer said. “And that’s a problem. Living in a chronic stress state for a long period of time can lead to serious health issues including heart disease, diabetes, obesity and cancers.”
The findings of the study can be found online in the Biological Research for Nursing Journal.
Researchers analyzed blood samples to look for inflammatory proteins and C-reactive protein (CRP) – a substance produced by the liver that indicates inflammation. The hair samples, shaved in a three-by-three centimeter area from the forearm, were analyzed for cortisol. Participants’ information from questionnaires were also analyzed. Dr. Groer collected the data in close collaboration with Meggitt Training Systems.
“This study provides a first step into understanding the bio-behavioral experiences and health risks of the military population,” Dr. Groer said. “The results give us an opportunity to study this issue further with other groups to compare and contrast.”
This is not Dr. Groer’s first research with the military population. In the last few years, she has been working on several studies about trauma and stress in women serving in the military. This research is part of RESTORE LIVES at USF College of Nursing, created to develop research and education programs to help military service members, veterans and their families.
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