Social determinants of health (SDoH) refer to the conditions in the environments in which people live that affect health outcomes and risks. SDoH may provide proximal, actionable targets for interventions. This study examined how SDoH are associated with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression symptoms among Veterans and non-Veterans with probable PTSD or depression.
Four multiple regressions were conducted. Two multiple regressions with Veterans examined the impact of SDoH on PTSD symptoms and on depression symptoms. Two multiple regressions with non-Veterans examined the impact of SDoH on PTSD symptoms and on depression symptoms. Independent variables included demographic characteristics, adverse experiences (in childhood and adulthood), and SDoH (discrimination, education, employment, economic instability, homelessness, justice involvement, and social support). Correlates that were statistically significant (p < 0.05) and clinically meaningful (rpart >|0.10|) were interpreted.
For Veterans, lower social support (rpart = − 0.14) and unemployment (rpart = 0.12) were associated with greater PTSD symptoms. Among non-Veterans, greater economic instability (rpart = 0.19) was associated with greater PTSD symptoms. In the depression models, lower social support (rpart = − 0.23) and greater economic instability (rpart = 0.12) were associated with greater depression for Veterans, while only lower social support was associated with greater depression for non-Veterans (rpart = − 0.14).
Among Veterans and non-Veterans with probable PTSD or depression, SDoH were associated with PTSD and depression symptoms, particularly social support, economic instability, and employment. Beyond direct treatment of mental health symptoms, addressing social support and economic factors such as instability and employment in the context of PTSD and depression are potential intervention targets that would benefit from future research.