Stress, Health & Adaptation During Operation Joint Endeavor



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Stress, Health & Adaptation During Operation Joint Endeavor
Paul T. Bartone, Thomas W. Britt, & Amy B. Adler

U.S. Army Medical Research Unit - Europe

Walter Reed Army Institute of Research

Heidelberg, Germany



Survey data on stress, health and adjustment were collected over time for a large group of U.S. Army soldiers deployed from Germany for peacekeeping operations in the Former Yugoslavia. Primary stressors just prior to deployment include time pressure to complete preparations, concern about one=s family, impact of deployment on job advancement, problems with unit leaders, and boredom at work. Pre-deployment stress levels were found to predict reported symptoms and depression 6-months later for 103 soldiers with complete data at both time points. Personality hardiness interacts with pre-deployment stress to further predict symptoms later in time, supporting a stress-buffering role for hardiness.
Introduction
Successful adjustment of U.S. military personnel to the psychological stressors of operations like the recent Operation Joint Endeavor (OJE) in the former Yugoslavia is important to mission success, as well as soldier health and well-being. Yet we have little experience with peacekeeping missions like this. While some of the stressors on such operations may be familiar (e.g., family separation), there are likely to be new and unexpected stressors too. In order to plan effective programs for preventing ill-effects of stress, and maintaining morale and mental health of troops and families, it is first necessary to develop a good understanding of the nature of operational stressors at various phases of peacekeeping missions
When the U.S. deployed over 20,000 troops into the former Yugoslavia in winter of 1995-96, researchers at the US Army Medical Research Unit-Europe (USAMRU-E) implemented a prospective research study to identify the key stressors at different phases of the mission, as well as short- and long-term health effects. Based on previous work with Army units on deployments, a new survey instrument was developed to assess stress, health, and morale starting in the Bosnia pre-deployment period. This survey was administered to soldiers scheduled to deploy for OJE, starting in November 1995. Surveys were distributed during pre-deployment processing and at marshaling sites while soldiers awaited transportation. Survey administration continued at various locations in Germany through January 1996, with 3,036 soldiers eventually completing the survey prior to deploying. A mid-deployment survey was completed by 1,038 soldiers about 6-months later in June 1996. Matching cases by social security numbers where available, 103 individuals were identified who completed both pre-deployment and mid-deployment surveys. The present report is based only on these 103 matched cases with data over time.
NOTE: Views of the authors do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Department of the Army or the Department of Defense (para 4-3, AR 360-5).


Method
Each survey included a list of potential stressors relevant to pre-deployment and mid-deployment operational phases. Total stress exposure scores were created by summing responses to these stressor items. For these analyses, stress exposure at the pre-deployment phase was used to predict depression and psychiatric symptoms approximately 6-months later, at the mid-deployment phase. Depression was measured using a short form (7-item) of the CES-D (Radloff, 1977). Psychiatric symptoms were measured using a 20 item scale (Bartone et. al, 1989) based on the World War II AAmerican Soldier@ studies (Stouffer et. Al., 1949).
Personality hardiness has been identified as a significant moderator of stress in a variety of occupational groups (e.g., Bartone, 1989; Contrada, 1989; Kobasa, Maddi & Kahn, 1982; Roth et. al, 1989; Wiebe, 1991). Conceptually, Ahardiness@ is an individual differences variable that develops early in life and is reasonably stable over time, though amenable to change under certain conditions (Maddi & Kobasa, 1987). Hardy persons have a high sense of life and work commitment, greater sense of control, and are more open to change and challenges in life. In military groups, hardiness was identified as a significant moderator of combat exposure stress in US Gulf War soldiers (Bartone, 1993). Hardiness was measured with a 15-item scale developed by Bartone (1995), which includes positively and negatively keyed items covering the three facets of commitment, control and challenge. In a sample of 700 Army reservists in medical units mobilized for the Gulf War, Cronbach's alpha coefficient for the total hardiness measure is .83, and for the facets, .77 (commitment), .71 (control), and .70 (control). Similar internal consistency coefficients are seen with other samples. Recent data from an Army unit deployed to Saudi Arabia show a 3-month test-retest reliability coefficient of .59 (N=170). This short hardiness scale has demonstrated appropriate criterion-related and predictive validity in several samples, with respect both to health and performance under high-stress conditions. For example, scores on this hardiness measure are predictive of illness/symptom indicators and health behaviors in a large group (N=787) of men and women Army Reservists mobilized for the Gulf War. Also, as hardiness theory would predict, Army Special Forces candidates who score high on this measure are more likely to succeed in a rigorous and highly stressful selection course.
Results
Stressors at pre-deployment were summed, and entered into regression models to predict depression and symptoms at mid-deployment, 6 months later. Pre-deployment stressors mainly related to time pressure to complete preparations, preparing the family for the deployment, concern about families being taken care of by Rear Detachment, and sense of isolation. Other important stressors were lack of job advancement opportunities, and dissatisfaction with one=s level of education. This likely reflects in part the belief that deploying will interfere with continuing education, and will not help one=s promotability. Problems with unit leaders and boredom were also identified as stressors in the pre-deployment period.

In the first regression analysis, total pre-deployment stress exposure predicts depression scores at mid deployment:


Pre-deployment Stress predicts later Depression

____________________________________________________________

Predictor R-Square Beta T p<

____________________________________________________________


Stress .04 .19 1.97 .05
____________________________________________________________

Model: F(1,101) = 3.89, p<.05

N=103 US Army personnel deployed to Bosnia-Croatia (1996)

In the second regression model, total pre-deployment stress exposure predicts later symptoms scores, and hardiness interacts with exposure to also predict symptoms scores:


Pre-deployment Stress & Hardiness predict later Symptoms

____________________________________________________________

Predictor R-Square Beta T p<

____________________________________________________________


Stress .10 .84 3.8 .0002
Stress X Hardy .14 -.64 -2.9 .004

____________________________________________________________

Model: F(2, 99) = 8.2, p<.0005

N=103 US Army personnel deployed to Bosnia-Croatia (1996)


Discussion
Preliminary results of this prospective study show that stress exposure in the pre-deployment phase predicts depression and symptoms later in time, at the mid-deployment phase, for U.S. Army soldiers deployed to Bosnia. Stress exposure at pre-deployment is more strongly related to later symptoms than to depression. Also, personality hardiness interacts with stress exposure to further predict symptoms, but not depression. This finding supports a stress buffering role for hardiness, where soldiers who are high in hardiness are more resilient and healthy under high stress conditions. These data also suggest that soldiers tend to express psychological stress in terms of somatic complaints and symptoms, moreso than depression symptoms. This accords with recent studies showing long-term physical health effects of war stress (Elder et. al., 1997), and supports the view that psychological stress plays an important role in the emergence of symptoms in soldiers following military operations.


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NOTE: Portions were presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Psychological Society, Washington, DC, May, 1997.


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