Research into mental health often focuses on mental illness. But by focusing on just the negative, we deny ourselves the opportunity to understand how to thrive. As part of ADVANCE, the participants complete a questionnaire investigating post-traumatic growth, which is a collection of beneficial psychological changes that have been noted in those exposed to trauma like injury or warzone experiences. We are pleased to announce that the first academic paper investigating post-traumatic growth in the ADVANCE cohort is now available.
The full paper (Post-traumatic growth amongst UK armed forces personnel who were deployed to Afghanistan and the role of combat injury, mental health and pain: the ADVANCE cohort study) is available here.
The aim of this piece of ADVANCE research was to investigate the experience of post-traumatic growth amongst the ADVANCE cohort and assess whether combat injury, mental illness and pain were associated with post-traumatic growth.
What is post-traumatic growth?
Post-traumatic growth is a collection of psychological changes that occur after exposure to trauma. These can include, but are not limited to: appreciating your life more, relating to others better, a greater understanding of your own personal strength, seeing new possibilities in your life and a greater spiritual understanding.
What were the findings?
Our findings showed that those who experienced a combat injury whilst deployed to Afghanistan were more likely to report a large degree of post-traumatic growth compared to the uninjured group. However, the type of injury is important to consider. Those who experienced amputation-related injuries were more likely to report post-traumatic growth compared to the uninjured group, but those who experienced non-amputation injuries were not. In addition, those who reported depression were less likely to report a large degree of post-traumatic growth. On the other hand, pain/discomfort was associated with a greater likelihood of reporting a large degree of post-traumatic growth. We also found that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has a mixed association with post-traumatic growth.
What do the findings mean?
Post-traumatic growth has a number of beneficial aspects, not limited to psychological health. Those who experience post-traumatic growth generally engage in healthier lifestyle behaviours (e.g. lower alcohol use or smoking) and have better overall health compared to those who don’t experience post-traumatic growth. The more we understand about why some people experience this growth whilst others experience mental illness, the more likely it is we can develop targeted interventions that might help elicit growth amongst the most vulnerable.