J Trauma Stress. 2022 Nov 3. doi: 10.1002/jts.22889. Online ahead of print.
This study explored the impact of moral injury (MI) and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) on health care utilization, mental health complexity, and suicidality in rural and urban veterans. Analyses combined data from the Salt Lake City PTSD Clinic Intake Database and the Department of Veterans Affairs Corporate Data Warehouse. Participants (N = 1,545; Mage = 45.9 years) were predominately male (88.3%) and White (87.8%). Adjusted analyses indicated associations between a 1-unit increase in Moral Injury Events Scale (MIES) score and increased mental health complexity, RR = 1.01, 95% CI [1.01, 1.02], p < .001; psychotropic medication utilization, RR = 1.01, 95% CI [1.01, 1.03], p < .001; VA drug class count, RR = 1.01, 95% CI [1.00, 1.01], p = .030; outpatient utilization, RR = 1.01, 95% CI [1.01, 1.02], p < .001; and mental health outpatient utilization, RR = 1.01, 95% CI [1.00, 1.03], p < .001. For the MIES x PTSD interaction, all associations remained statistically significant with similar estimated effects. However, for rural veterans, this interaction did not significantly affect utilization. Among those with PTSD, a 1-unit MIES increase was associated with an increased risk of suicidality, OR = 1.02, 95% CI [1.01, 1.04], and psychiatric admission, OR = 1.02, 95% CI [1.00, 1.04]. Findings suggest that higher MIES scores predict increased health care utilization and mental health complexity. Further, PTSD combined with higher MIES scores may increase the risk of suicidality and psychiatric admission. Rural veterans with PTSD and higher MIES scores may require additional outreach and intervention.