, Volume 23, Issue 5, pp 1579-1591
Date: 07 Dec 2013

The association of PTSD with physical and mental health functioning and disability (VA Cooperative Study #569: the course and consequences of posttraumatic stress disorder in Vietnam-era Veteran twins)

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Abstract

Purpose

To assess the relationship of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) with health functioning and disability in Vietnam-era Veterans.

Methods

A cross-sectional study of functioning and disability in male Vietnam-era Veteran twins. PTSD was measured by the Composite International Diagnostic Interview; health functioning and disability were assessed using the Veterans RAND 36-Item Health Survey (VR-36) and the World Health Organization Disability Assessment Schedule 2.0 (WHODAS 2.0). All data collection took place between 2010 and 2012.

Results

Average age of the 5,574 participating Veterans (2,102 Vietnam theater and 3,472 non-theater) was 61.0 years. Veterans with PTSD had poorer health functioning across all domains of VR-36 and increased disability for all subscales of WHODAS 2.0 (all p < .001) compared with Veterans without PTSD. Veterans with PTSD were in poorer overall health on the VR-36 physical composite summary (PCS) (effect size = 0.31 in theater and 0.47 in non-theater Veterans; p < .001 for both) and mental composite summary (MCS) (effect size = 0.99 in theater and 0.78 in non-theater Veterans; p < .001 for both) and had increased disability on the WHODAS 2.0 summary score (effect size = 1.02 in theater and 0.96 in non-theater Veterans; p < .001 for both). Combat exposure, independent of PTSD status, was associated with lower PCS and MCS scores and increased disability (all p < .05, for trend). Within-pair analyses in twins discordant for PTSD produced consistent findings.

Conclusions

Vietnam-era Veterans with PTSD have diminished functioning and increased disability. The poor functional status of aging combat-exposed Veterans is of particular concern.