Mindfulness as a mediator between trauma exposure and mental health outcomes: Results from the National Health and Resilience in Veterans Study

Psychol Trauma. 2021 Feb;13(2):223-230. doi: 10.1037/tra0000995. Epub 2021 Jan 21.


Objective: Exposure to traumatic life events is associated with increased risk of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental health problems such as suicidal ideation (SI), alcohol use disorder (AUD), and decreased quality of life (QOL). Mindfulness, which involves attending to the present moment, may help individuals cope with traumatic events by increasing acceptance of trauma-related experiences and decreasing trauma-related negative affect and avoidance of trauma reminders. The current study evaluated whether mindful attention to the present moment mediated the association between number of lifetime traumas and mental health.

Method: The sample consisted of 1,268 trauma-exposed U.S. veterans who participated in the National Health and Resilience in Veterans Study, a nationally representative study of U.S. veterans. On average, the sample was 60.6 years of age (SD = 15.2, range = 20-94), predominantly male (89.8%), Caucasian (75.0%), and noncombat veterans (59.2%).

Results: Path analyses revealed that mindfulness partially mediated the relation between number of lifetime traumas and PTSD symptoms (β = -.55), AUD (β = -.17), and QOL (β = .38), and fully mediated the relation between number of lifetime traumas and SI (β = -.36).

Conclusions: The relationship between lifetime trauma burden and various mental health issues of relevance to U.S. veterans may be mediated by mindfulness, or the ability to pay attention to the present moment. Interventions that bolster mindfulness may help mitigate the negative impact of cumulative traumas in this population. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved).

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alcoholism / psychology*
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mindfulness*
  • Psychological Trauma / psychology*
  • Quality of Life / psychology*
  • Resilience, Psychological*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology*
  • Suicidal Ideation*
  • United States
  • Veterans / psychology*
  • Young Adult