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Associations Between Mindfulness, PTSD, and Depression in Combat Deployed Post-9/11 Military Veterans

  • Nicholas BarrEmail author
  • Mary Keeling
  • Carl Castro



Combat experiences predict PTSD and depression in U.S. military veterans. However, few studies have investigated associations between mindfulness and these constructs. We examined main, direct, and indirect effects for mindfulness and combat experiences on veterans’ PTSD and depressive symptoms and investigated the explanatory value of mindfulness on outcome variance in these models.


A total of 485 post-9/11 era military veterans with previous combat deployments residing in four major US cities completed online surveys asking about their combat experiences, mindfulness, and mental health. Two multivariable ordinary least squares regression models were specified to investigate main effects of mindfulness and combat experiences on veterans’ PTSD and depressive symptoms. Path models examined direct and indirect effects of combat experiences and mindfulness on these outcomes.


There were significant associations for mindfulness (β = − 0.68, p < 0.001), (β = − 0.67, p < 0.001) and combat experiences (β = 0.12, p < 0.001), (β = 0.09, p < 0.001) with PTSD and depression respectively. In both models, the addition of the mindfulness parameter significantly increased model R2. Path analysis demonstrated significant direct effects for mindfulness and combat experiences and indirect effects for combat experiences on PTSD and depressive symptoms through the mindfulness pathway.


The associations of mindfulness with PTSD and depressive symptoms were greater in magnitude than the associations for combat experiences, and mindfulness explained a large and significant proportion of the variance in outcomes. Additional longitudinal research investigating how mindfulness skills and strategies may buffer against risk for PTSD and depression posed by combat experience is warranted in this high risk population.


PTSD Veterans Mindfulness Military Combat 



This study was funded with two pilot grants from the Military Research Cluster at the University of Southern California Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work.

Author Contributions

NB designed and executed the study, conducted data analysis, and wrote the manuscript. MK collaborated on the study design and writing of the study. CAC collaborated in study conceptualization, writing, and editing of the final manuscript. All authors approved the final version of the manuscript for submission.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the University of Southern California Institutional Review Board and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all study participants.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Nevada Las Vegas School of Social WorkLas VegasUSA
  2. 2.USC Center for Innovation and Research on Veterans and Military FamiliesLos AngelesUSA
  3. 3.United Kingdom Council for PsychotherapyLondonUK
  4. 4.University of Southern California Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social WorkLos AngelesUSA

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