Systematic Review of Veterans' Coping Strategies: How Can Rural Veterans Improve Their Quality of Life?

Tracey Marie Barnett, Alexa Smith-Osborne, Freda Barnett-Braddock


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; the gray literature and white papers were considered as well. 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: 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: cognitive, religiosity/spirituality 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.


veterans, trauma*, cope*, adjust*, stress*community reintegration

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