To determine the interrelationships among traumatic brain injury (TBI), maladaptive personality traits (MPT), psychological distress, and cognitive flexibility in the prediction of subjective well-being of post-9/11 veterans concurrently and over time.
Five Veterans Affairs (VA) medical centers and 1 VA outpatient clinic in urban, suburban, and rural areas.
Five hundred Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom veterans at baseline (219 with TBI), 292 at 18-month follow-up (108 with TBI), drawn from a regional registry and clinic referrals.
Path analysis of data from a prospective cohort study.
Satisfaction with Life Scale, 36-ltem Short-Form Health Survey (SF-36) Health Scale, Personality Assessment Screener, Beck Depression Inventory-II, Beck Anxiety Inventory, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Checklist-Military, Trail Making Test, Part B, Delis-Kaplan Executive Function System (D-KEFS) Category-Switching Verbal Fluency, and D-KEFS Color-Word Interference Test.
There was no direct effect of TBI on well-being at baseline or 18 months later. Psychological distress, MPT, and cognitive flexibility had significant direct effects on well-being at baseline and 18 months. Baseline model accounted for 66% of the variance in well-being; follow-up model accounted for 43% of well-being variance. Negative influence of distress significantly decreased from baseline to follow-up. Direct negative effect of MPT diminished slightly over 18 months; effect of cognitive flexibility increased. Significant relationships were estimated in prediction of distress by MPT, cognitive flexibility, and TBI. TBI predicted MPT. MPT, cognitive flexibility, and TBI had indirect effects on well-being. TBI had a positive indirect influence on distress. Total effects included 4 significant predictors of well-being at baseline and 18 months: distress, MPT, cognitive flexibility, and TBI.
Experience of TBI alone did not predict subjective well-being at baseline or 18 months later. Psychological distress, MPT, and cognitive flexibility had direct effects on well-being at both time points. Interventions aimed at reducing distress and bolstering resilience and cognitive flexibility are recommended to increase subjective well-being in this population.