Income and mental health in the Canadian general, military, and veteran populations: a multiple database investigation

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Klassen, Kristen
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The link between mental health and income of military personnel remains relatively understudied in Canada. This research sought to determine whether household income is associated with poor mental health in terms of suicide ideation, suicide attempts, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and mood and anxiety disorders in various military samples. First, associations of household income and several DSM-IV diagnosed mental disorders were examined in active military personnel and the Canadian general population using the Canadian Community Health Survey Cycle 1.2 (CCHS-1.2; a representative sample of Canadians ages 16-64, n=28,688) and corresponding Canadian Forces Supplement (CCHS-CFS; a representative sample of active duty personnel ages 16-64, n=8,441). Second, associations of household income with categories of mental health conditions were examined in Canadian veterans using the Survey on Transition to Civilian Life (STCL; a representative survey of 3,154 former regular force personnel released from the military between 1998 to 2007, ages 15-67). Multiple logistic regression analyses, adjusted for sociodemographic variables, were used to determine associations between household income and mental health conditions in the three populations. Military characteristics (such as rank, branch, years of service, and previous deployment) were examined for potential influence on the household income-mental health relationship in the military and veteran samples. The primary hypothesis for this study was that lower income would be concomitant with poorer mental health in all three populations. This hypothesis was confirmed in the Canadian veteran population and general population. With respect to active service members, the results were less definitive; although trends in the data suggest that household income is associated with mental disorders, statistical tests were non-significant. The results of this study have important implications for future policy formulation and program development for military and veteran personnel; for active personnel, more thorough mental health screening procedures and prevention strategies focused on those in lower income brackets may have significant health and economic implications. For veteran personnel, the incorporation of knowledge and understanding of the impact of income on mental health into transition to civilian life policies and support programs may provide similar benefits.
household income, mental disorders, Canadian Forces, military, veterans