“For many soldiers, mental trauma lingers at home”

(1)  One cost of our wars — Summary:  “For many soldiers, mental trauma lingers at home“, Time, 7 June 2010 — “Roughly one in ten soldiers returning from Iraq faces ongoing struggles due to post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and other conditions.” 

(2)  The actual research:  “Prevalence of Mental Health Problems and Functional Impairment Among Active Component and National Guard Soldiers 3 and 12 Months Following Combat in Iraq“, Jeffrey L. Thomas et al, Archives of General Psychiatry, June 2010 — Abstract:

A growing body of literature has demonstrated the association of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan with postdeployment mental health problems, particularly posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression. However, studies have shown varying prevalence rates of these disorders based on different case definitions and have not assessed functional impairment, alcohol misuse, or aggressive behavior as comorbid factors occurring with PTSD and depression.  Objectives:

  1. To examine the prevalence rates of depression and PTSD using several case definitions including functional impairment, 
  2. determine the comorbidity of alcohol misuse or aggressive behaviors with depression or PTSD, and
  3. compare rates between Active Component and National Guard soldiers at the 3- and 12-month time points following their deployment to Iraq.

This is a population-based, cross-sectional study, set in US Army posts and National Guard armories.  Participants A total of 18 305 US Army soldiers from 4 Active Component and 2 National Guard infantry brigade combat teams.   Between 2004 and 2007, anonymous mental health surveys were collected at 3 and 12 months following deployment.  Main outcome measures:  current PTSD, depression, functional impairment, alcohol misuse, and aggressive behavior.

Results:   Prevalence rates for PTSD or depression with serious functional impairment ranged between 8.5% and 14.0%, with some impairment between 23.2% and 31.1%. Alcohol misuse or aggressive behavior comorbidity was present in approximately half of the cases. Rates remained stable for the Active Component soldiers but increased across all case definitions from the 3- to 12-month time point for National Guard soldiers.

Conclusions:  The prevalence rates of PTSD and depression after returning from combat ranged from 9% to 31% depending on the level of functional impairment reported. The high comorbidity with alcohol misuse and aggression highlights the need for comprehensive postdeployment screening. Persistent or increased prevalence rates at 12 months compared with 3 months postdeployment illustrate the persistent effects of war zone service and provide important data to guide postdeployment care.

Posts about America’s men and women in uniform

  1. An effective way to support our Troops: help the Blue Star Mothers of America, 8 June 2008
  2. Time: “America’s Medicated Army”, 12 June 2008
  3. Stratfor: “The U.S. Air Force and the Next War”, 13 June 2008
  4. “VA testing drugs on war veterans” – The Washington Times and ABC News, 18 June 2008
  5. Support the USO – more effective than a bumper sticker, 5 July 2008 — Another way to support our troops, more effective than a bumper sticker.
  6. Is post-traumatic stress disorder more common now than in past wars?, 17 July 2008
  7. One of the best geopolitical posts of the year, IMO, 12 August 2008 — “War is the great auditor of institutions”
  8. A lesson for America – and an inspiration, 13 March 2009
  9. “VA testing drugs on war veterans” – The Washington Times and ABC News, 18 June 2008
  10. Is post-traumatic stress disorder more common now than in past wars?, 17 July 2008
  11. Suicides skyrocket among US soldiers, 26 March 2009
  12. Background info to the “U.S. Soldier Opens Fire on Comrades” incident, 12 May 2009
  13. Did exposure to “burn pits” in Iraq and Afghanistan harm our troops?, 1 July 2009
  14. Another important story about our army nearing the breaking point, 28 July 2009
  15. A look at the gradual decay of our armed forces, 28 December 2009

For more about his topic see the FM reference page An Army near the Breaking Point – studies & reports.

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