Risk Factors for Incident Postdeployment Mental Health Conditions Among U.S. Air Force Medical Service Personnel

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The prevalence of postdeployment mental health (PDMH) conditions in military health care personnel appears to be on par with that of other military personnel. However, there is no comprehensive analysis of incident PDMH conditions within the overall population of U.S. Air Force Medical Service personnel. This study explored the epidemiology of incident PDMH conditions among Air Force Medical Service personnel returning from deployment. A cohort survival analysis was conducted of 24,409 subjects without preexisting mental health conditions and at least one deployment during 2003–2013. Electronic health record data were used to ascertain the diagnosis of a PDMH condition. The primary outcome measure was an incident PDMH condition defined as a mental health diagnosis on at least two separate clinical encounters. The incidence of PDMH conditions was 59.74 per 1,000 person-years. Adjustment, anxiety, mood, sleep, and post-traumatic stress disorders accounted for 78% diagnoses. Protective factors included officer, surgeon, specific enlisted career fields, Air National Guard or Air Force Reserve, and multiple deployments. Risk factors included nurse, other specific enlisted career fields, female, and unmarried with dependents. Most subjects (73%) were diagnosed within the standard 30-month surveillance time period; median time to diagnosis was 13 months.


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Military Medicine