Post-combat syndromes are not unique to the Gulf war

Post-combat syndromes are not unique to the Gulf war, but have arisen after all major wars over the past century, finds a study in this weeks BMJ.

Records for 1,856 British servicemen were randomly selected from war pension files. The research team identified three clusters of post-combat syndromes - a debility syndrome (related to the Boer war and the first world war), a somatic disorder focused on the heart (linked primarily to the first world war), and a neuropsychiatric syndome (related to the second world war and the Gulf conflict).

They found significant differences in the expression of symptoms between the three groups, implying that there is no single disorder common to all modern wars.

Gulf war veterans were found in all three groups, suggesting that not all servicemen engaged in the same conflict can be categorised in the same way, say the authors.

All modern wars have been associated with a syndrome characterised by unexplained medical syndromes. The ever changing form of these syndromes seems to be related to advances in medical science, the changing nature of warfare, and cultural undercurrents, explain the authors.

If each new post-combat syndrome is not interpreted as a unique or novel illness, but as part of an understandable pattern of normal responses to the physical and psychological stress of war, then it could be managed more effectively, they conclude.


Contact: Emma Wilkinson
BMJ-British Medical Journal

Page: 1

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