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Duan-Porter W, Nelson DB, Ensrud KE, Spoont MR. Physical functioning and mental health treatment initiation and retention for veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder: a prospective cohort study. BMC health services research. 2021 Sep 23; 21(1):1005.
BACKGROUND: Most US adults with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) do not initiate mental health treatment within a year of diagnosis. Increasing treatment uptake can improve health and quality of life for those with PTSD. Individuals with PTSD are more likely to report poor physical functioning, which may contribute to difficulty with treatment initiation and retention. We sought to determine the effects of poor physical functioning on mental health treatment initiation and retention for individuals with PTSD. METHODS: We used data for a national cohort of veterans in VA care; diagnosed with PTSD in June 2008-July 2009; with no mental health treatment in the prior year; and who responded to baseline surveys on physical functioning and PTSD symptoms (n? = 6,765). Physical functioning was assessed using Veterans RAND 12-item Short Form Health Survey, and encoded as limitations in physical functioning and role limitations due to physical health. Treatment initiation (within 6 months of diagnosis) was determined using VA data and categorized as none (reference), only medications, only psychotherapy, or both. Treatment retention was defined as having? = 4 months of appropriate antidepressant or = 8 psychotherapy encounters. RESULTS: In multinomial models, greater limitations in physical functioning were associated with lower odds of initiating only psychotherapy (OR 0.82 [95?% CI 0.68, 0.97] for limited a little and OR 0.74 [0.61, 0.90] for limited a lot, compared to reference "Not limited at all"). However, it was not associated with initiation of medications alone (OR 1.04 [0.85, 1.28] for limited a little and OR 1.07 [0.86, 1.34] for limited a lot) or combined with psychotherapy (OR 1.03 [0.85, 1.25] for limited a little and OR 0.95 [0.78, 1.17] for limited a lot). Greater limitations in physical functioning were also associated with lower odds of psychotherapy retention (OR 0.69 [0.53, 0.89] for limited a lot) but not for medications (e.g., OR 0.96 [0.79, 1.17] for limited a lot). Role limitations was only associated with initiation of both medications and psychotherapy, but there was no effect gradient (OR 1.38 [1.03, 1.86] for limitations a little or some of the time, and OR 1.18 [0.63, 1.06] for most or all of the time, compared to reference "None of the time"). Accounting for chronic physical health conditions did not attenuate associations between limitations in physical functioning (or role limitations) and PTSD treatment; having more chronic conditions was associated with lower odds of both initiation and retention for all treatments (e.g., for 2?+?conditions OR 0.53 [0.41, 0.67] for initiation of psychotherapy). CONCLUSIONS: Greater limitations in physical functioning may be a barrier to psychotherapy initiation and retention. Future interventions addressing physical functioning may enhance uptake of psychotherapy.