Prospective assessment of neuropsychological functioning and mood in US Army National Guard personnel deployed as peacekeepers

Susan P Proctor, Kristin J Heaton, Kathryn Dutille Dos Santos, Erik S Rosenman, Timothy Heeren
2009 Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment and Health  
Proctor SP, Heaton KJ, Dos Santos KD, Rosenman ES, Heeren T. Prospective assessment of neuropsychological functioning and mood in US Army National Guard personnel deployed as peacekeepers. Scand J Work Environ Health. 2009;35(5):349-360. Objective The present study examined the impact of deployment on neuropsychological functioning and mood in Army National Guard personnel. We hypothesized that deployment on a peacekeeping mission, compared to non-deployment, would result in reduced
more » ... reduced proficiencies in neuropsychological performance and negative mood changes, and that such changes would relate to working in a high-strain job (high demands/low control), in accordance with Karasek's demand-control model. Methods This prospective cohort study involved 119 male soldiers (67 participants examined before and after deployment to the Bosnia operational theatre and 52 non-deployed soldiers assessed twice over a comparable period). Results Unit-level adjusted, multivariate analyses found that deployed soldiers, compared to their non-deployed counterparts, demonstrated reduced proficiency in tasks involving motor speed [unstandardized coefficient B= -3.88, 95% confidence interval (95% CI) -6.38--1.39; B= -3.84, 95% CI -5.55--2.14; dominant and nondominant hand, respectively] and sustained attention (B=0.031, 95% CI 0.009-0.054), along with decreased vigor (B= -2.71, 95% CI -3.63--1.77). Deployed soldiers also showed improved proficiency in a working-memory task (B= -0.098, 95% CI -0.136--0.060) with less depression symptomatology (B= -3.19, 95% CI -5.26--1.13). Work stress levels increased over time in both deployed and non-deployed groups, but observed deployment effects remained significant after accounting for a high-strain job. Conclusion The observed change in performance associated with peacekeeping deployment compared to non-deployment (slowed processing speed, reduced motor speed and reported vigor, together with improved proficiency in a working memory task) suggests an adaptive response to mission occupational stressors. This pattern does not appear to be influenced by working in a high-strain job. Further study is required to examine whether these results reflect transient or permanent changes in functioning.
doi:10.5271/sjweh.1348 fatcat:q4mnplbghzayxptptvg74vze34