University of Worcester Worcester Research and Publications

Exploring the Role of Social Connection in Interventions With Military Veterans Diagnosed With Post-traumatic Stress Disorder: Systematic Narrative Review

Gettings, R.D., Kirtley, J., Wilson-Menzfeld, G., Oxburgh, G. E., Farrell, Derek ORCID: and Kiernan, M. D. (2022) Exploring the Role of Social Connection in Interventions With Military Veterans Diagnosed With Post-traumatic Stress Disorder: Systematic Narrative Review. Frontiers in Psychology, 13. p. 873885. ISSN Online: 1664-1078

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Background: It has been identified that military veterans have distinct experiences of loneliness and social isolation and, when comparing this community to other client groups with a PTSD diagnosis, veterans respond less favorably to treatment. However, the link between PTSD and loneliness for veterans remains insufficiently researched and it is unclear if there are effective interventions tackling this distinct experience of loneliness.

Aims: This systematic narrative review aimed to synthesize existing evidence incorporating elements of social connection, social isolation, and loneliness within interventions for military veterans with a diagnosis of PTSD, consequently aiming to examine the impact of such interventions upon this community.

Methods: Six databases were searched, utilizing relevant search criteria, with no date restrictions. Articles were included if they involved intervention or treatment for military veterans with PTSD and considered elements of social connection, social isolation, and/or loneliness. The initial search returned 202 papers. After exclusions, removal of duplications, and a reference/citation search, 28 papers remained and were included in this review.

Results: From the 28 studies, 11 directly addressed social isolation and two studies directly addressed loneliness. Six themes were generated: (i) rethinking the diagnosis of PTSD, (ii) holistic interventions, (iii) peer support, (iv) social reintegration, (v) empowerment through purpose and community, and (vi) building trust.

Conclusions: A direct focus upon social reintegration and engagement, psychosocial functioning, building trust, peer support, group cohesiveness and empowerment through a sense of purpose and learning new skills may mitigate experiential loneliness and social isolation for veterans with PTSD. Future research and practice should further explore the needs of the PTSD-diagnosed veteran community, seek to explore and identify potential common routes toward the development of PTSD within this community and consider bespoke interventions for tackling loneliness.

Item Type: Article
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This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

Uncontrolled Discrete Keywords: loneliness, mental health, military, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, psychosocial, social isolation, veteran
Divisions: College of Business, Psychology and Sport > School of Psychology
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Copyright Info: © 2022 Gettings, Kirtley, Wilson-Menzfeld, Oxburgh, Farrell and Kiernan.
Depositing User: Derek Farrell
Date Deposited: 04 Aug 2022 16:06
Last Modified: 04 Aug 2022 16:09

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