Effects of War Exposure on Air Force Personnel’s Mental Health, Job Burnout and Other Organizational Related Outcomes

Longitudinal data from a stratified representative sample of U.S. Air Force personnel (N = 1009) deployed to the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other locations were analyzed in this study. Using structural equation models, we examined the effects of war exposure on traumatic experiences, Post Traumatic Stress (PTS) symptoms, resource loss, and on subsequent functioning, perceived health, and on job and organizationally relevant outcomes. The job and organizational outcomes included job burnout, job involvement, job strain, job satisfaction, work-family conflict, organizational commitment, deployment readiness, and intention to reenlist. We found that deployment to the theater of the war increased risk of exposure to trauma, which in turn, predicted elevated PTS symptoms and resource loss. PTS symptoms predicted later loss of resources and deterioration in perceived health and functioning. In turn, resource loss predicted negative job and organizational outcomes. Exposure to trauma fully mediated the effects of deployment to the theater of war on PTS symptoms and resource loss and had additional significant indirect effects on several job and organizational relevant outcomes. For returning veterans, deployment to the theater of war, exposure to trauma, PTS symptoms, and resource loss represents a “cascading” chain of events that over time results in a decline of health and functioning as well as in adverse job and organizationally relevant outcomes that may affect organizational effectiveness. © 2011 American Psychological Association.