Volume 53 Number 6, 2016
Pages 781 — 796
Abstract — Veterans who have been deployed to combat often have complex medical histories, including some combination of traumatic brain injury (TBI); mental health problems; and other chronic, medically unexplained symptoms (i.e., chronic multisymptom illness [CMI] clusters). How these multiple pathologies relate to functional health is unclear. In the current study, 120 Veterans (across multiple combat cohorts) underwent comprehensive clinical evaluations and completed self-report assessments of mental health symptoms (Patient Health Questionnaire-2 [PHQ-2], Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Checklist–Civilian Version [PCL-C]) and functional health (Veterans Rand 36-Item Health Survey). Canonical correlation and regression modeling using split-sample permutation tests revealed that the PHQ-2/PCL-C composite variable (among TBI severity and number of problematic CMI clusters) was the primary predictor of multiple functional health domains. Two subscales, Bodily Pain and General Health, were associated with multiple predictors (TBI, PHQ-2/PCL-C, and CMI; and PHQ-2/PCL-C and CMI, respectively), demonstrating the multifaceted nature of how distinct medical problems might uniquely and collectively impair aspects of functional health. Apart from these findings, however, TBI and CMI were not predictors of any other aspects of functional health. Taken together, our findings suggest that mental health problems might exert ubiquitous influence over multiple domains of functional health. Thus, screening of mental health problems and education and promotion of mental health resources can be important to the treatment and care of Veterans.
Key words: chronic multisymptom illness, daily functioning, functional health, mental health, posttraumatic stress, quality of life, symptoms, traumatic brain injury, Veterans, war-related illness.
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