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Scientists find war vets' hand dexterity determines susceptibility to PTSD

DANVILLE, PA. A recent study conducted by investigators with the Geisinger Center for Health Research shows a clear link between combat veterans' use of both hands for common tasks and the likelihood that they will experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Combat veterans with an extreme level of mixed handedness are nearly twice as likely to develop (PTSD) after combat compared to veterans who use both hands less often, according to the study, which is being published in the May issue of Psychosomatic Medicine.

The study also found that veterans with extreme mixed handedness and high combat exposure were nearly five times more likely to have PTSD than those with lower degrees of mixed handedness.

Joseph Boscarino, PhD, MPH and Stuart Hoffman, DO of the Geisinger Center for Health Research measured PTSD and handedness among a national sample of 2,490 Vietnam veterans exposed to combat.

"These findings suggest the possibility of a pre-existing biological vulnerability for PTSD," said Boscarino, the study's principal investigator. "We know generally what type of soldier is likely to suffer from PTSD, before they go into combat."

While other studies on handedness and PTSD have yielded similar results, those prior studies were too small to draw significant conclusions. Boscarino's groundbreaking study examined a much larger group of patients, and therefore the results are more applicable to a large group of veterans.

"Given the research, it might be beneficial to screen people entering high-risk occupations such as the military for handedness," Boscarino said. "If pre-screening doesn't occur, the healthcare community should at least make sure that these people receive adequate post stress exposure help."

In today's context, even brief psycho-social interventions for military personnel returning from Iraq and Afghanistan could significantly reduce the risk of PTSD, said Boscarino, a Vie
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Contact: Justin Walden
jawalden@geisinger.edu
570-271-8083
Geisinger Health System
22-May-2007


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