Subjective cognitive difficulties and posttraumatic stress disorder interact to increase suicide risk among middle-aged and older US military veterans

Monica Cations, Joan M. Cook, Brandon Nichter, Irina Esterlis, Robert H. Pietrzak

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Abstract


Objectives: To examine the role of subjective cognitive difficulties (SCD), posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and their interaction in predicting suicidal ideation and current suicidal intent in middle-aged and older United States (US) military veterans.

Design: Population-based cross-sectional study.

Setting and participants: Data were analyzed from the 2019 to 2020 National Health and Resilience in Veterans Study, which surveyed a nationally representative sample of 3602 US veterans aged 50 years and older (mean age = 69.0).

Measurements: Questionnaires including the Medical Outcomes Study Cognitive Functioning Scale (SCD), PTSD Checklist for DSM-5 (PTSD), Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (suicidal ideation in the previous two weeks), and the Suicide Behaviors Questionnaire-Revised (current suicidal intent).

Results: A total of 154 (4.4%) veterans screened positive for current PTSD, 239 (6.7%) reported past two-week suicidal ideation, and 37 (1.0%) reported current suicidal intent. The probability of suicidal ideation among veterans with both SCD and PTSD was more than six times higher than that observed in the full sample (44.5% vs. 6.7%) and more than 2.5 times higher than that observed in veterans with SCD and no PTSD (44.5% vs. 17.5%). Veterans with both subjective memory and concentration difficulties were more likely to report suicidal intent, though the interaction between SCD and PTSD was not significantly associated with suicidal intent.

Conclusion: Middle-aged and older U.S. veterans with subjective cognitive impairment and PTSD report higher rates of suicidal ideation than those with SCD alone. Interventions targeting SCD and PTSD may mitigate suicide risk among middle-aged and older veterans.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Psychogeriatrics
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 9 Feb 2023

Keywords

  • posttraumatic stress disorder
  • cognitive impairment
  • suicide

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