Psychiatric status and work performance of veterans of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom

OBJECTIVE:

This cross-sectional study investigated the relationship between psychiatric diagnosis and impaired work functioning among American service members returning from Operation Iraqi Freedom-Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF-OIF).

METHODS:

Participants were 797 OEF-OIF veterans, of whom 473 were employed. They were referred for further psychiatric assessment by primary care providers at six Veterans Affairs medical centers and underwent a behavioral health interview that assessed psychiatric and health status and work impairment as measured by the Work Limitations Questionnaire (WLQ). The four WLQ subscales (mental-interpersonal demands, time management, output, and physical demands) and an aggregated measure of productivity loss were considered in the analysis. Associations between patient characteristics, psychiatric status, and work impairments were investigated with regression models.

RESULTS:

Major depressive disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, and generalized anxiety or panic disorder were significantly associated with impairments in mental-interpersonal demands, time management, and output. Alcohol dependence and illicit drug use were associated with impairments in output and physical demands. On average these productivity losses were four times those found in a previous study of nonveteran employees with no psychiatric disorders.

CONCLUSIONS:

Veterans’ ability to maintain gainful employment is a major component of successful reintegration into civilian life, and psychiatric disorders have a negative impact on work performance. This study demonstrated that multiple dimensions of job performance are impaired by psychiatric illness among OEF-OIF veterans. Delivery of empirically supported interventions to treat psychiatric disorders and development of care models that focus on work-specific interventions are needed to help veterans return to civilian life.

Psychiatric status and work performance of veterans of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. Psychiatr Serv. 2011 Jan;62(1):39-46.
Source: Department of Medicine, Tufts Medical Center, Boston, MA, USA.

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