Online Program

Changing Rates of Mental Health Disorders Among Veterans Treated in the VHA, 2007-2010

Monday, November 2, 2015 : 2:50 p.m. - 3:10 p.m.

Marcia Hunt, PhD, Northeast Program Evaluation Center (NEPEC), Office of Mental Health Operations, VHA, VHA and Yale University, West Haven, CT
Gary Cuddeback, PhD, Program on Mental Health Services Research, Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC
Elizabeth Bromley, MD, PhD, Semel Institute Center for Health Services and Society, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA
Daniel Bradford, MD, MPH, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, VHA VA Central Office, Mental Health Services; Duke University, Durham, NC
Background/Purpose: Nationally representative data on the prevalence of mental health disorders is difficult to obtain, yet these data are necessary in order to set national mental health priorities and policies. National registry data about mental health diagnoses exist for our nation’s veteran population; however, these data have yet to be used to examine changing trends in mental health and substance use diagnoses among Veterans.

Methods: We use four years of Veterans Health Administration program evaluation data (2007-2010) to examine changes over time in the numbers of Veterans with any of the following seven diagnoses:  bipolar disorder, psychotic disorders, drug/alcohol dependence, anxiety disorders, posttraumatic stress disorder, major depression, and acute alcohol/drug use/abuse.

Results: There were considerable changes in the numbers of Veterans in the aforementioned diagnostic categories during the study period. The numbers of Veterans with psychotic disorders decreased by 8.5% from 92,190 in 2007 to 84,350 in 2011, however, posttraumatic stress disorder increased by 49% from 2007 (n=259,939) to 2011 (n=386,235), depression increased by 25% between 2007 (n=349,714) and 2011 (n=437,876), bipolar disorder increased by 22% between 2007 (n=51,114) and 2011 (n=62,158) and substance use disorders increased by 16% between 2007 (n=587,120) and 2011 (n=684,456).

Implications: Trends in behavioral health disorders among Veterans who receive services from the Veterans Health Administration have important implications for behavioral health programming and policy. VHA services and clinical competencies should be aligned with the changing needs of Veterans, particularly with troop draw downs and during the current VA-wide reorganization efforts focusing on care delivery and customer service.

Learning Areas:

Administration, management, leadership
Public health or related research

Learning Objectives:
Demonstrate how national VA program evaluation data can be used to examine trends in behavioral health diagnoses among Veterans receiving services from the Veterans Health Administration.

Keyword(s): Mental Health, Veterans' Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Not Answered