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The impact of psychological strengths on Veteran populations' mental health trajectories during the COVID-19 pandemic.

McCleery A, Wynn JK, Novacek DM, Reavis EA, Senturk D, Sugar CA, Tsai J, Green MF. The impact of psychological strengths on Veteran populations' mental health trajectories during the COVID-19 pandemic. Social psychiatry and psychiatric epidemiology. 2023 Jun 14.

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PURPOSE: Mental health trajectories during the COVID-19 pandemic have been examined in Veterans with tenuous social connections, i.e., those with recent homelessness (RHV) or a psychotic disorder (PSY), and in control Veterans (CTL). We test potential moderating effects on these trajectories by psychological factors that may help individuals weather the socio-emotional challenges associated with the pandemic (i.e., ''psychological strengths''). METHODS: We assessed 81 PSY, 76 RHV, and 74 CTL over 5 periods between 05/2020 and 07/2021. Mental health outcomes (i.e., symptoms of depression, anxiety, contamination concerns, loneliness) were assessed at each period, and psychological strengths (i.e., a composite score based on tolerance of uncertainty, performance beliefs, coping style, resilience, perceived stress) were assessed at the initial assessment. Generalized models tested fixed and time-varying effects of a composite psychological strengths score on clinical trajectories across samples and within each group. RESULTS: Psychological strengths had a significant effect on trajectories for each outcome (ps? < 0.05), serving to ameliorate changes in mental health symptoms. The timing of this effect varied across outcomes, with early effects for depression and anxiety, later effects for loneliness, and sustained effects for contamination concerns. A significant time-varying effect of psychological strengths on depressive symptoms was evident in RHV and CTL, anxious symptoms in RHV, contamination concerns in PSY and CTL, and loneliness in CTL (ps? < 0.05). CONCLUSION: Across vulnerable and non-vulnerable Veterans, presence of psychological strengths buffered against exacerbations in clinical symptoms. The timing of the effect varied across outcomes and by group.

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