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UF study: Emotional effects of heavy combat can be lifelong for veterans
Date:10/6/2010

l assault, Ardelt said.

"You can either conclude that God has abandoned you, the world is an unfair place and there is nothing else to do but close yourself off from it all or you can manage to open yourself up and develop compassion for the suffering of others realizing that you have now become a part of it," she said.

Participants were veterans who had been members of Harvard's undergraduate class between 1940 and 1944. In 1946, a year after the war ended, the men filled out an extensive questionnaire and participated in an in-depth interview. They took part in additional in-depth interviews at about 30, 50 and 65, answered follow-up questionnaires every two years, took personality tests and received physical examinations every five years starting at age 45.

The study found that some veterans experienced stress-related growth, the ability to press on with life in a purposeful manner after hardship or adversity. This was measured by whether or not they reached "generativity" in middle age, a life stage identified by psychologist Erik Erikson that is characterized by a desire to mentor the next generation and give back to the community.

Veterans in the high combat group who experienced stress-related growth or reached "generativity" reported significantly less anxiety and depression than other veterans who did not attain this stage of development, either in the high or low combat group, the study found.

In addition, veterans with high combat exposure who experienced this type of growth were less likely than those who did not attain it to abuse alcohol in their early 50s, while the difference in alcohol consumption in the no combat group between veterans who reached "generativity" and those who did not was statistically insignificant, Ardelt said. Among veterans who failed to reach "generativity," those exposed to heavy combat tended to drink significantly larger amounts of alcohol in midlife than veterans with no combat
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Contact: Monika Ardelt
ardelt@ufl.edu
352-392-0265
University of Florida
Source:Eurekalert

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