A study published 8 JUN by Archives of General Psychiatry examines how many soldiers develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental health disorders after deployment. Researchers from the US Army Medical Research and Materiel Command examined 13,226 anonymous surveys completed by veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The investigators found that roughly one in 10 survey-takers had PTSD that was severe enough to cause ‘serious functional impairment. Between 9% and 14% of the soldiers were diagnosed with PTSD or depression resulting in serious impairment, while 23% to 31% were deemed to have some impairment. CNN /Health.com (6/7 Gardner) reported. Notably, the risk of mental health problems may be more persistent among National Guard soldiers, the study suggests. A greater proportion of men and women in the National Guard than in the Army were diagnosed with PTSD and depression one year after their return, although the two groups had similar rates at the three-month mark.
The researchers conclude that it’s clear even a year after deployment many combat soldiers have not psychologically recovered. And, because the time between deployments is often only a year to 18 months for active soldiers, a sizable proportion are likely returning to with lingering mental health issues. According to HealthDay approximately 50% of those with strictly defined depression or PTSD also admitted to alcohol misuse or physical aggression. The study’s findings suggest a need for improved post-deployment screening, the researchers said. A related study has found that veterans over the age of 55 with PTSD may be almost twice as likely to become demented as veterans who did not have PTSD. Researchers from the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center and the University of California-San Francisco arrived at that conclusion after tracking some 180,000 veterans over the age of 55 for some seven years. The researchers theorized that years of prolonged stress may cause changes in the brain leading to dementia. [Source: Los Angeles Times, Reuters, Cnn News, and HealthDay articles 7 Jun 2010 ++]