Negative Life Events (NLEs) Contributing to Psychological Distress, Pain, and Disability in a U.S. Military Sample

Jose L. Moreno, Paul S. Nabity, Kathryn E. Kanzler, Craig J. Bryan, Cindy A. McGeary, Donald D. McGeary

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Introduction: The objective was to explore how negative life events (NLEs, e.g., litigation related to pain and disability, failing most recent physical fitness test, and financial difficulties) are related to pain coping and psychological adjustment to pain in active duty military personnel. Materials and Methods: Data were gathered as part of the Evaluation of Suicidality, Cognitions, and Pain Experience study, a DoD-funded cross-sectional assessment of chronic pain and emotional coping among a cohort of military members. The investigators examined data from 147 respondents with complete survey and pain assessment data. Results: The sample was active duty, male (62.6%), in a relationship or married (83.0%), and had children (68.7%). The majority of the sample endorsed zero NLEs (72.0%); 23.8% endorsed one NLE, 4.2% endorsed two NLEs, and no one endorsed all three NLEs. A significantly higher proportion of participants endorsing one or more NLEs reported suicidal ideation compared to those who reported no NLEs (χ 2 (2) = 8.61, p = 0.014). A higher number of endorsed NLEs coincided with higher symptom severity related to psychosocial distress (depression, thwarted belongingness, perceived burdensomeness, PTSD, and suicide cognitions) and poor pain coping (rumination, helplessness, and less acceptance of chronic pain). Conclusions: Findings revealed that NLEs may impart a significant burden on military pain sufferers. Greater numbers of endorsed NLEs are associated with increased psychosocial distress and poor pain coping. Future longitudinal studies examining long-term psychosocial distress/poor pain coping as related to NLEs would help to elaborate the long-term consequences of NLEs on pain coping and psychosocial distress.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E148-E155
JournalMilitary medicine
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019


  • active duty military
  • disability
  • disability litigation
  • negative life events
  • psychological adjustment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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