Date of Award

Spring 5-15-2020

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)


Public Health

First Advisor

Dr. Ike S Okosun

Second Advisor

Dr. Heather Bradley



The Effect of Period of Service and Exposure to Service-Connected PTSD on Employment Status of US Veterans


Cleveland Whitehead III

INTRODUCTION: Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric disorder that can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event such as a natural disaster, a serious accident, a terrorist act, war/combat, rape, or other violent personal assault. Service in the Armed Forces is a well known risk factor of PTSD. Hence the US Armed Forces leads are the main agencies with interests in PTSD research and treatment. Although it is well established that the unemployment rate in veterans is high, little is known regarding the role of exposure to PTSD risk factors and length of service on the employment status of US veterans.

AIM: The purpose of this study is to determine if exposure to PTSD risk factors and length of service affects veterans' employment status. The underlying hypothesis of this study is that exposure to PTSD risk factors and length of service are independently associated with unemployment.

METHODS: The National Center for Veterans Analysis 2010 Survey dataset was used for this study. Odds ratio from univariate and multivariate logistic regression analyses were used to examine the associations between PTSD exposure and length of service with employment status.

RESULTS: Over 58% of study participants were unemployed. Specifically, those who were prisoners of war or exposed to environmental hazards were significantly more likely to be unemployed compared to those who were not. Longer years of military service was positively associated with higher odds of PTSD. Participants with a military service period of less than 1 year and 1 to 5 years had much-decreased odds of PTSD compared to participants who had a service period greater than 5 years. In the univariate model, participants who were exposed to PTSD risk factors were 9% less likely to be employed compared to participants who were not exposed. Participants who were exposed to PTSD risk factors also had 1% decreased odds employment. Participants with longer service periods became less likely to be employed with those serving 11-15 years being 62% less likely to be employed. Length of service did not have any statistically significant effect on employment, controlling for all other selected independent variables.

DISCUSSION: Exposure to PTSD was found to be an statistically independent risk factor for unemployment in veterans. Increased length of military service was associated with increased unemployment. Although the margin was very low, these findings have public health significance and highlight the need to monitor subjects with PTSD regarding their ability to hold onto long term employment.

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