Sociology, Department of


Document Type


Date of this Version



Journal of Rural Health 33:3 (2017), pp. 314–322.

doi: 10.111/jrh.12199


U.S. Government Work


Purpose: The objective of this study is to determine whether rural residence is associated with trauma exposure or posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms among military veterans seeking treatment for substance use disorder (SUD) through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Delivering mental health services to veterans in rural areas is a challenge, so identifying differences in the causes and outcomes of trauma exposure would assist in effectively targeting service delivery.

Methods: Veterans (N = 196) entering SUD treatment at 3 Midwestern VA treatment centers were designated as either urban or rural, based on rural-urban commuting area (RUCA) codes. The veterans completed the Life Events Checklist, the Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Checklist, and the Addiction Severity Index’s psychiatric status subscale. Hypothesized relationships between rural-urban residence and both trauma exposure and symptomology were tested using independent samples t tests, chi-square tests, and ordinary least squares regression.

Findings: The range of traumatic experiences was similar between rural and urban veterans, and rural-urban residence was not significantly associated with the overall array of traumas experienced or the symptom measures’ overall scores or subscores. Of 17 possible traumatic lifetime experiences, rural veterans differed from urban veterans on only 2, reporting significantly lower rates of transportation accidents and unwanted sexual experiences.

Conclusions: In both the causes of trauma and the need for treatment, veterans residing in rural areas differ little from their urban counterparts.