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Background: The mental health burden of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is high in U.S. military samples. Social support is one of the most robust protective factors against PTSD and a recent meta-analysis indicates that this relationship is even stronger in military samples compared to civilian samples. Yet no meta-analyses have explored factors impacting this association in veterans and military service members (VSMs).

Objective: The current meta-analysis examined demographic, social support, and military characteristics that may moderate the relationship of PTSD severity and social support among U.S. VSMs.

Method: A search identified 37 cross-sectional studies, representing 38 unique samples with a total of 18,766 individuals.

Results:The overall random effects estimate was −.33 (95% CI: −.38, −.27, Z = −10.19, p

Conclusion: Results suggest that social support received from civilians and in the home environment may play a greater protective role than social support received from military sources on long-term PTSD symptom severity. The literature on social support and PTSD in U.S. VSMs would be strengthened by studies examining the association of social negativity and PTSD symptoms.


© 2021 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. The original article can be found at:

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License (, which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

The dataset for this article can be found at:

Published Citation

Rebecca K. Blais, Vanessa Tirone, Daria Orlowska, Ashton Lofgreen, Brian Klassen, Philip Held, Natalie Stevens & Alyson K. Zalta (2021). Self-reported PTSD symptoms and social support in U.S. military service members and veterans: a meta-analysis. European Journal of Psychotraumatology, 12(1), 1851078.