The impact of psychological strengths on Veteran populations’ mental health trajectories during the COVID-19 pandemic

Amanda McCleery, Jonathan K. Wynn, Derek M. Novacek, Eric A. Reavis, Damla Senturk, Catherine A. Sugar, Jack Tsai, Michael F. Green

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Purpose: Mental health trajectories during the COVID-19 pandemic have been examined in Veterans with tenuous social connections, i.e., those with recent homelessness (RHV) or a psychotic disorder (PSY), and in control Veterans (CTL). We test potential moderating effects on these trajectories by psychological factors that may help individuals weather the socio-emotional challenges associated with the pandemic (i.e., ‘psychological strengths’). Methods: We assessed 81 PSY, 76 RHV, and 74 CTL over 5 periods between 05/2020 and 07/2021. Mental health outcomes (i.e., symptoms of depression, anxiety, contamination concerns, loneliness) were assessed at each period, and psychological strengths (i.e., a composite score based on tolerance of uncertainty, performance beliefs, coping style, resilience, perceived stress) were assessed at the initial assessment. Generalized models tested fixed and time-varying effects of a composite psychological strengths score on clinical trajectories across samples and within each group. Results: Psychological strengths had a significant effect on trajectories for each outcome (ps < 0.05), serving to ameliorate changes in mental health symptoms. The timing of this effect varied across outcomes, with early effects for depression and anxiety, later effects for loneliness, and sustained effects for contamination concerns. A significant time-varying effect of psychological strengths on depressive symptoms was evident in RHV and CTL, anxious symptoms in RHV, contamination concerns in PSY and CTL, and loneliness in CTL (ps < 0.05). Conclusion: Across vulnerable and non-vulnerable Veterans, presence of psychological strengths buffered against exacerbations in clinical symptoms. The timing of the effect varied across outcomes and by group.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)111-120
Number of pages10
JournalSocial Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology
Issue number1
Early online date14 Jun 2023
StatePublished - Jan 2024
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany.


We extend our gratitude to our recruiters and interviewers without whom this work would not have been possible: Lauren Catalano, PhD, Gerard De Vera, Arpi Hasratian, Julio Iglesias, Brian Ilagan, Mark McGee, Jessica McGovern, PhD, Ana Ceci Myers, Megan Olsen, and Michelle Torreliza. Finally, we thank our Veteran volunteers for taking the time to participate in this research. This study was funded by the Research Enhancement Award Program to Enhance Community Integration in Homeless Veterans (MFG) Rehabilitation Research and Development grant D1875-F from the Department of Veteran Affairs, , and by the VA National Center on Homelessness among Veterans (MFG), . Amanda McCleery, PhD, is supported by a career development award from National Institute of Mental Health (K23MH108829). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. The contents of this article do not represent the views of the United States Department of Veterans Affairs or the United States Government.

FundersFunder number
VA National Center on Homelessness
National Institute of Mental HealthK23MH108829
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs


    • Adaptive coping
    • COVID-19
    • Defeatist performance beliefs
    • Homelessness
    • Intolerance of uncertainty
    • Psychosis
    • Resilience
    • Stress


    Dive into the research topics of 'The impact of psychological strengths on Veteran populations’ mental health trajectories during the COVID-19 pandemic'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this