POSTTRAUMATIC STRESS AND DEPRESSIVE SYMPTOMS AND SYMPTOM CLUSTERS IN US MILITARY PERSONNEL: THE LONGITUDINAL EFFECTS OF GENERAL SELF-EFFICACY AND MEANING IN LIFE
US military personnel often experience ongoing distress after being exposed to traumatic events, and many develop posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and major depressive disorder (MDD). Both general theories of stress and coping and cognitive theories of PTSD suggest that traumatic events give rise to distress by negatively influencing important beliefs and goals related to the self, other people, and the world. According to these theories, more positive belief- and goal-systems are associated with less severe symptoms of distress. Two constructs that tap into these systems are general self-efficacy and subjective meaning in life. The overall goal of the current study was to examine the ways general self-efficacy and subjective meaning in life relate to posttraumatic stress and depressive symptoms and symptom clusters in US military personnel, both cross-sectionally and longitudinally. Data from a VA-funded intervention study (n = 191) were examined. Results demonstrated that meaning in life is consistently associated with posttraumatic stress and depressive symptoms and symptom clusters cross-sectionally, whereas general self-efficacy is only associated with some aspects of depressive symptoms. Longitudinal analyses further revealed that meaning in life is associated with the Cluster D symptoms of PTSD and the cognitive-affective symptoms of depression. Interpretations, possible explanations, implications, and future directions are provided. Continued research in this area may identify important targets for treatment that enhance ongoing efforts to facilitate recovery from trauma.