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Mental illnesses appear common among veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan

Almost one-third of returning veterans who received health care at Veterans Affairs facilities between 2001 and 2005 were given a mental health or psychosocial diagnosis, according to a report in the March 12 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

Some reports have suggested that soldiers returning from Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, the most recent military efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, experience high rates of substance abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental health conditions, according to background information in the article. In these operations, the most sustained ground combat since the Vietnam era, "the majority of military personnel experience high-intensity guerilla warfare and the chronic threat of roadside bombs and improvised explosive devices," the authors write. "Some soldiers endure multiple tours of duty, many experience traumatic injury and more of the wounded survive than ever before." These veterans are eligible for two years of free health care related to their military service through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

Karen H. Seal, M.D., M.P.H., and colleagues at the University of California, San Francisco, and San Francisco VA Medical Center examined data from a VA database including 103,788 veterans of these operations who were first seen at VA facilities between Sept. 30, 2001, and Sept. 30, 2005. About 13 percent were women, 54 percent were younger than age 30, close to one-third were minorities and almost one-half were veterans of the National Guard or Reserves rather than full-time military personnel.

A total of 32,010 (31 percent) received mental health and/or psychosocial diagnoses, including 25,658 (25 percent) who received mental health diagnoses (56 percent of whom had two or more diagnoses). The most common such diagnosis was PTSD; the 13,205 veterans with this disorder represented 52 percent of those receiving
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Contact: Steve Tokar
415-221-4810
JAMA and Archives Journals
12-Mar-2007


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