Service members who transition out of the military often face substantial challenges during their transition to civilian life. Leaving military service requires establishing a new community as well as sense of connectedness to that community. Little is known about how social connectedness may be related to other prominent transition outcomes, particularly symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The purpose of this study was to explore the role of social connectedness in the development of PTSD, as well as its relationship to the known risk factors of combat exposure and discharge status. Data used were drawn from a needs assessment survey of 722 veterans. A path model was specified to test direct and indirect effects of combat experiences, non-honorable discharge status, and social connectedness on PTSD symptoms. Results demonstrated positive direct effects for combat experiences and non-honorable discharge status on PTSD symptoms while social connectedness demonstrated a negative direct effect. Both combat experiences and non-honorable discharge status demonstrated negative direct effects on social connectedness and indirect on PTSD through the social connectedness pathway. Study findings indicate social connectedness may be an important factor related to PTSD in veterans as well as an intervention point for mitigating risk related to combat exposure and discharge status.
Keywords: PTSD; combat; discharge status; mental health; military; social connectedness; veterans.