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Quality of life in elderly Portuguese war veterans with post-traumatic stress symptoms

Authors Pereira MG, Machado JC, Pereira M, Lopes C, Pedras S

Received 25 January 2018

Accepted for publication 23 August 2018

Published 27 February 2019 Volume 2019:10 Pages 49—58


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Dr Liana Bruce (formerly Castel)

M Graça Pereira,1 José C Machado,2 Marta Pereira,1 Cristiana Lopes,3 Susana Pedras1

1School of Psychology, University of Minho, Braga 4710-057, Portugal; 2Institute of Social Sciences, University of Minho, Braga 4710-057, Portugal; 3Hospital of Braga, Sete Fontes – São Victor, Braga 4710-243, Portugal

Background: Studies show that post-traumatic stress symptoms among Portuguese veterans who participated in Colonial War (1961–75) are high, even though 43 years have gone by since the end of the war.
Aims: This study analyzed the role of family type, personality traits, and social support as predictors of post-traumatic stress symptoms and quality of life in war veterans, and whether satisfaction with social support was a mediator between neuroticism/post-traumatic stress symptoms and quality of life.
Method: A cross-sectional study was conducted including 230 war veterans with a mean age of 60 years (SD=3.82).
Results: Results indicated a high prevalence of post-traumatic stress symptoms as well as high neuroticism, 16.5 (SD=4.41); 81% of veterans presented high psychological distress, suggesting emotional disturbance and 71% belonged to extreme families (families with cohesion and adaptability problems). Results showed that age (β=−0.166, p<0.05), social support (β=−0.184, p<0.01), and neuroticism (β=0.325, p<0.001) predicted post-traumatic stress symptoms. Age, professional status, social support, post-traumatic stress symptoms, family type, neuroticism, and extroversion predicted different dimensions of quality of life. Finally, a path analysis showed that satisfaction with social support was a mediator in the relationship between neuroticism and quality of life (β=−0.066; p<0.01) and between post-traumatic stress symptoms and quality of life (β=−0.108; p<0.01).
Conclusion: Four decades after the Colonial War have passed, there is still a high prevalence of post-traumatic stress symptoms. Screening elderly veterans who present post-traumatic stress symptoms, for the presence of neuroticism traits, and assessing family type and social support, should be a standard practice in health care services, especially in the oldest and those who are retired. Social support should be promoted in order to enhance quality of life in this population.

Keywords: war veterans, post-traumatic stress symptoms, personality traits, social support, quality of life

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