Age differences in posttraumatic stress disorder, psychiatric disorders, and healthcare service use among veterans in veterans affairs primary care clinics

B. Christopher Frueh, Anouk L. Grubaugh, Ron Acierno, Jon D. Elhai, Gregory Cain, Kathryn M. Magruder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

43 Scopus citations

Abstract

OBJECTIVE: To expand our understanding of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) prevalence, its psychiatric characteristics, and service use among elderly veterans in Veterans Affairs (VA) primary care clinics. METHODS: A cross-sectional, epidemiological design (N = 745) incorporating self-report measures, structured interviews, and chart reviews was used to obtain relevant information for analyses. RESULTS: The oldest group of veterans (≥65 years; N = 318) had lower prevalence of most psychiatric diagnoses than the youngest (18-44 years; N = 69) and middle-aged (45-64 years; N = 358) groups. Despite having higher rates of combat exposure, veterans in the oldest group (6.3%) had one-third the prevalence of PTSD than those in the middle-aged group (18.6%). A similar pattern was found across other psychiatric diagnoses. For example, those in the oldest group (7.5%) had one-third the prevalence of major depression as those in the two younger groups (21.7% and 22.9%). These differences were maintained after controlling for relevant demographic covariates (race, sex). Results from examination of VA health care service use across the three groups were consistent with the findings that the oldest veteran group is functioning significantly better across mental health domains. CONCLUSION: Elderly veterans who use VA primary care services evidence lower rates of PTSD and other psychiatric disorders, and they use significantly less VA mental health services. They also do not appear to show evidence of worse physical health functioning or use VA health care services or disability benefits at a meaningfully higher rate than their younger counterparts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)660-672
Number of pages13
JournalAmerican Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry
Volume15
Issue number8
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 2007

Keywords

  • Elderly
  • Geriatric
  • Health care
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder
  • Service use
  • Veterans
  • Veterans Affairs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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