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Associations of humor, morale, and unit cohesion on posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms

APA Citation:

Ward, R. N., Carlson, K. J., Erickson, A. J., Yalch, M. M., & Brown, L. M. (2021). Associations of humor, morale, and unit cohesion on posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms. Military Psychology. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1080/08995605.2021.1996103

Abstract Created by REACH:

This study employed a sample of 20,901 active-duty Soldiers who participated in the Army Study to Assess Risk and Resilience in Servicemembers (STARRS) to examine associations among deployment stress (e.g., combat exposure), resilience factors (i.e., humor, morale, unit cohesion), and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms. The study also examined if resilience factors altered the association between deployment stressors and PTSD symptoms. There was some evidence that resilience factors may buffer against the development of PTSD symptoms for Soldiers who experience deployment stress.


Mental health

Branch of Service:


Military Affiliation:

Active Duty

Subject Affiliation:

Active duty service member


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


Quantitative Study
Cross sectional study


Ward, Rachel N., Carlson, Katie J., Erickson, Alexander J., Yalch, Matthew M., Brown, Lisa M.


Military personnel experience many stressors during deployments that can lead to symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, not all military personnel who are exposed to deployment stressors develop PTSD symptoms. Recent research has explored factors that contribute to military personnel resilience, a multifaceted and multidetermined construct, as a means to mitigate and prevent PTSD symptoms. Much of this research has focused on the effects of individual-level factors (e.g., use of coping strategies like humor, the morale of individual unit members), with some research focusing on unit-level factors (e.g., the cohesiveness of a unit). However, there is little research exploring how these factors relate to each other in mitigating or reducing PTSD symptoms. In this study, we examined the association between deployment stressors, perceived unit cohesion, morale, humor, and PTSD symptoms in a sample of 20,901 active-duty military personnel using structural equation modeling. Results indicated that perceived unit cohesion, humor, and morale were positively associated with each other and negatively associated with PTSD symptoms over and above the effect of deployment stressors. These findings highlight the influence of resilience factors on PTSD symptoms beyond their substantial overlap and have implications for future research as well as the potential development of interventions for military personnel.

Publisher/Sponsoring Organization:

Taylor & Francis

Publication Type:

REACH Publication

Author Affiliation:

Department of Psychology, Palo Alto University, RNW


military, morale, posttraumatic stress disorder, resilience factors, Unit cohesion

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Research Summary

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