Cognitive ability and risk of post-traumatic stress disorder after military deployment: an observational cohort study

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Background: Studies of the association between pre-deployment cognitive ability and post-deployment post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have shown mixed results.

Aims: To study the influence of pre-deployment cognitive ability on PTSD symptoms 6-8 months post-deployment in a large population while controlling for pre-deployment education and deployment-related variables.

Method: Study linking prospective pre-deployment conscription board data with post-deployment self-reported data in 9695 Danish Army personnel deployed to different war zones in 1997-2013. The association between pre-deployment cognitive ability and post-deployment PTSD was investigated using repeated-measure logistic regression models. Two models with cognitive ability score as the main exposure variable were created (model 1 and model 2). Model 1 was only adjusted for pre-deployment variables, while model 2 was adjusted for both pre-deployment and deployment-related variables.

Results: When including only variables recorded pre-deployment (cognitive ability score and educational level) and gender (model 1), all variables predicted post-deployment PTSD. When deployment-related variables were added (model 2), this was no longer the case for cognitive ability score. However, when educational level was removed from the model adjusted for deployment-related variables, the association between cognitive ability and post-deployment PTSD became significant.

Conclusions: Pre-deployment lower cognitive ability did not predict post-deployment PTSD independently of educational level after adjustment for deployment-related variables.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBritish Journal of Psychiatry Open
Issue number6
Pages (from-to)274-280
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2017

    Research areas

  • Journal Article

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