Vulnerability and resilience to combat exposure: can stress have lifelong effects?


Vulnerability and resilience to combat exposure: can stress have lifelong effects?


Aldwin CM; Levenson MR; Spiro A


Psychology And Aging




Humans; Male; Adult; Follow-Up Studies; Aged; Middle Aged; Longitudinal Studies; Defense Mechanisms; Europe; Stress; 80 and over; P.H.S.; Research Support; U.S. Gov't; Adaptation; Psychological; Psychological/complications; Personality Development; Personality Inventory/statistics & numerical data; Software; Non-P.H.S.; Combat Disorders/diagnosis/psychology; Korea; Mathematical Computing; Veterans/psychology


The purpose of this study was to examine whether appraisals of desirable and undesirable effects of military service mediated the effect of combat stress on posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms in later life in 1,287 male veterans, aged 44-91 years (M = 63.56, SD = 7.46), 40% of whom had been in combat. The men reported more desirable effects of military service (e.g., mastery, self-esteem, and coping skills) than undesirable ones; both increased linearly with combat exposure (r = .17 and .33, p < .001, respectively). Path analysis revealed that the appraisals were independent and opposite mediators, with undesirable effects increasing and desirable effects decreasing the relationship between combat exposure and PTSD, even controlling for depression and response style. Although lifelong negative consequences of combat exposure were observed, perceiving positive benefits from this stressful experience mitigated the effect.


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Aldwin CM; Levenson MR; Spiro A, “Vulnerability and resilience to combat exposure: can stress have lifelong effects?,” Pediatric Palliative Care Library, accessed November 30, 2022,

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