U.S. Army soldiers who return from military deployment to the Iraq war have an increased risk for mild neuropsychological compromise, including poorer memory and sustained attention performance and greater feelings of tension and confusion, according to a study in the August 2 issue of JAMA, a theme issue on violence and human rights.
Since early 2003, significant numbers of military personnel have been deployed to Iraq for Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). Although contemporary battlefield measures have improved war-zone survival, success in preventing fatalities has not eliminated adverse physical or mental health consequences, according to background information in the article. One major war-related health risk is often neuropsychological (i.e., cognitive and emotional) impairment. In past military conflicts, cognitive impairment figured prominently among veteran health complaints, ranking fourth among 1991 Gulf War veterans in government health registries. Because of its potential negative impact on occupational and psychosocial functioning in a predominantly young population, war-related neuropsychological impairment has significant public health implications. Yet, the consequences of war-zone deployment on neuropsychological health remain poorly understood. Knowledge gaps stem largely from a lack of predeployment health information and assessments conducted too long after war-zone exposure.
Jennifer J. Vasterling, Ph.D., of the Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System and Tulane University School of Medicine, New Orleans and colleagues conducted a study to examine neuropsychological outcomes following Iraq deployment. The study included 961 male and female active-duty Army Soldiers. Deploying Army Soldiers (n = 654) were examined prior to deployment to Iraq (April-December 2003) and shortly after return (within an average of 73 days; January-May 2005) from Iraq deployment. There was also a comparison group of soldiers (n = 307) sim
Contact: Phil Budahn
JAMA and Archives Journals