It seems counterintuitive: An unprecedented period of fear and anxiety that has gripped the world for more than a year can have a positive effect on some people. But that’s the finding of a recent study. What’s even more incredible is those reporting this glimmer of hope are the last ones you might expect it from: military veterans diagnosed with post-traumatic stress syndrome, or PTSD.
Yale researchers wondered if the pandemic has brought about any positive psychological changes among veterans, who were thought to be at greater risk for COVID-19–associated psychiatric issues given their documented high rates of PTSD or suicidal thoughts.
More than 4,000 vets who completed a health and resilience survey between 2019 and March 2020 were given a follow-up survey in December 2020.
The results were fascinating: More than 40% reported moderate or greater levels of psychological growth because of COVID-19. The most common sentiments expressed were greater appreciation of life, improved social relationships and increased personal strength.
Of course, it wasn’t all good news. More than 12% reported pandemic–associated PTSD symptoms. But here’s where it got even more compelling: Those who reported those symptoms were also more likely to embrace a greater appreciation of life and a significant drop in suicidal thoughts.
The researchers said the findings highlight the value of stressing positive growth-promoting interventions not just in veterans but in others who have been psychologically impacted by the pandemic.
All of us can gain by being reminded to appreciate the good things in our lives, and our resilience, as we begin to emerge from the cloud of COVID-19.