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Associations Between Mindfulness, PTSD, and Depression in Combat Deployed Post-9/11 Military Veterans

APA Citation:

Barr, N., Keeling, M., & Castro, C. (2019). Associations between mindfulness, PTSD, and depression in combat deployed post-9/11 military veterans. Mindfulness, 1-12. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-019-01212-9

Abstract Created by REACH:

Veterans with more severe experiences of wartime combat are more likely to have mental health difficulties following combat. It remains unclear, however, whether veterans with a greater ability to be mindful, specifically by being attentive to the present, may better manage their mental health symptoms. The purpose of this study was to examine the associations between combat experiences, mindful attention, and mental health. Veterans (N=485) completed electronic self-report measures about their combat experiences (e.g., was ambushed or saw human remains), mindful attention (staying focused, attentively engaging in tasks), and mental health (post-traumatic stress disorder [PTSD] symptoms and depressive symptoms). The results showed that higher levels of mindfulness were related to lower levels of adverse mental health symptoms. In addition, when veterans reported more combat experience, they tended to also report lower levels of mindfulness and higher levels of adverse mental health symptoms.


Mental health

Branch of Service:

Multiple branches

Military Affiliation:


Subject Affiliation:



Adulthood (18 yrs & older)
Young adulthood (18 - 29 yrs)
Thirties (30 - 39 yrs)
Middle age (40 - 64 yrs)
Aged (65 yrs & older)


Cross-Sectional Study
Quantitative Study


Barr, Nicholas, Keeling, Mary, Castro, Carl


ObjectivesCombat experiences predict PTSD and depression in U.S. military veterans. However, few studies have investigated associations between mindfulness and these constructs. We examined main, direct, and indirect effects for mindfulness and combat experiences on veterans’ PTSD and depressive symptoms and investigated the explanatory value of mindfulness on outcome variance in these models.MethodsA total of 485 post-9/11 era military veterans with previous combat deployments residing in four major US cities completed online surveys asking about their combat experiences, mindfulness, and mental health. Two multivariable ordinary least squares regression models were specified to investigate main effects of mindfulness and combat experiences on veterans’ PTSD and depressive symptoms. Path models examined direct and indirect effects of combat experiences and mindfulness on these outcomes.ResultsThere were significant associations for mindfulness (β = − 0.68, p < 0.001), (β = − 0.67, p < 0.001) and combat experiences (β = 0.12, p < 0.001), (β = 0.09, p < 0.001) with PTSD and depression respectively. In both models, the addition of the mindfulness parameter significantly increased model R2. Path analysis demonstrated significant direct effects for mindfulness and combat experiences and indirect effects for combat experiences on PTSD and depressive symptoms through the mindfulness pathway.ConclusionsThe associations of mindfulness with PTSD and depressive symptoms were greater in magnitude than the associations for combat experiences, and mindfulness explained a large and significant proportion of the variance in outcomes. Additional longitudinal research investigating how mindfulness skills and strategies may buffer against risk for PTSD and depression posed by combat experience is warranted in this high risk population.

Publisher/Sponsoring Organization:


Publication Type:

REACH Publication
Featured Research

Author Affiliation:

University of Nevada Las Vegas School of Social Work, NB
USC Center for Innovation and Research on Veterans and Military
Families, NB
United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy, America House, MK
USC Center for Innovation and Research on Veterans and Military
Families, CC
University of Southern California Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of
Social Work, CC


combat, military, mindfulness, PTSD, veterans

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REACH Publication Type:

Research Summary


This study was funded with two pilot grants from the Military Research Cluster at the University of Southern California Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work.

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