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Tackling Mental Health via Ohio’s National Guard


  • Military service members face serious mental health risks
  • Abt’s survey identifies factors associated with mental health disorders
  • A body of vital journal publications has emerged from this study
The Challenge

Military service members face serious mental health risks as a result of carrying out their duties. The consequences of service can include the development of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, traumatic brain injury and alcohol and substance use disorders. A better understanding of the prevalence of these psychopathologies, how they develop and the social support systems that help resist them is needed to support service members’ adjustment to a civilian lifestyle.

The Approach

In 2008, Abt designed a longitudinal phone survey and invited a cohort of Ohio National Guard members to participate. Through periodic baseline interviews, this cohort has grown to include approximately 3,500 members. The survey is currently in its eighth wave (of a planned nine) and is supported by in-person interviews, genetic analysis, brain imaging and interviews that focus on alcohol consumption.

The Results

The study is not yet complete, but the data have inspired 31 academic journal publications so far. Findings include:

  • The identification of a genetic sequence that partially predicts the development of PTSD in combination with childhood trauma
  • Coincident PTSD and depression predicts alcohol abuse
  • There are strong correlations between cigarette smoking, depression and suicidal ideation
  • The questions used to diagnose mental health disorders are valid 

Read more about this work:

Ohio National Guard Study
Ohio National Guard Mental Health Initiative (Long Term Follow Up Project)
ONG: The Impact of Retirement on Attrition in Military Service
ONG: Non-Response Bias Analysis Using Genetic Data