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Abstract

This systematic review examines the empirical literature on an emerging body of coping strategies (CS), both civilian readjustment and health-risk related, experienced by United States military veterans exposed to combat stress and other military lifestyle stressors. Studies that met inclusion criteria were selected among quantitative, qualitative, and mixed-methods studies published in peer-reviewed journals. Population, Intervention, Comparison, and Outcome (PICO) criteria and Grades of Recommendation, Assessment, Development, and Evaluation (GRADE) were applied to all studies. Seventeen reports meeting a priori inclusion criteria were extracted from 107 studies accessed through 9 electronic databases. Data were synthesized to investigate two research questions informing evidence-based practice. What coping strategies do veterans use to deal with past military experience(s)? What are the health-risk coping strategies that veterans employ to adjust to past military life? There were five types of coping strategies (CS) that occurred most frequently including cognitive, religious/spiritual methods, drug and alcohol sedation, avoidance, and behavioral approaches. Veterans learn multiple coping strategies and techniques for overcoming and adapting to the demands of war during their military service. However, some behavioral coping strategies are associated with negative health-risks and some may not be as effective in the civilian world as they once were during active duty. Thus, these findings may assist social workers in collaborating with rurally located veterans in selecting optimal strategies to protect their health and advance their post-military service life goals.

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