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Public support can influence soldiers' mental health: Study
Date:4/5/2013

Can events like Red Fridays, Tickets for Troops and the yellow ribbon campaign reduce the chances of Canadian soldiers experiencing combat-related stress disorders? The authors of a new study from the University of Alberta think so.

David Webber, a PhD student in the U of A's Department of Psychology, and his supervisor Jeff Schimel recently published a paper in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, positing that the level of public support for a war could influence the level of mental distress combatants feel when they arrive home, potentially leading to a heightened risk for developing post-traumatic stress disorder. Webber says the results send a message that policy-makers should choose their battles wisely.

Extermination and peer acceptance as research paradigm

Webber and colleagues designed two studies in which participants were asked to exterminate a number of woodlice using a modified coffee grinder. In one study, they would have to prep another participant, an actor who feigned either interest or disgust at the notion of the task. In the second study, participants were asked to record in a logbook who had actively participated or who had refused to kill the bugs. In both cases, the participants indicated increased levels of guilt and distress when they felt their participation was socially invalidated.

"We did have some participants who showed some clear distress not only when going through the initial act of killing, but also after finding that somebody else had refused to do it," said Webber. "There were some clear physical signs that people were uncomfortable after they found out it was invalidated by other people."

Vietnam versus the war on terror

Webber's research points to examples of wars or military actions that were perceived to be popular or unpopular with society, notably the American involvement in the Vietnam War compared with the response to the 9-11 attacks.
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Contact: Jamie Hanlon
jamie.hanlon@ualberta.ca
780-492-9214
University of Alberta
Source:Eurekalert

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