Wednesday, 16 January 2008

PTSD: new US research study

A recent US study published in the British Medical Journal yesterday has found that 1 in 12 of US service personnel who have fought in Afghanistan and Iraq are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. PTSD is the term used for a range of symptoms that include nightmares, memory flashbacks and chronic anxiety, with the individual often turning to alcohol or drugs for relief.
The study assessed thousands of soldiers both before and after their deployment and found that of those who had experienced combat at first hand 8.7% had developed PTSD compared with 2.1% of those who hadn't. Previous research had found that 30% of Vietnam veterans and 10% of Gulf War 1 veterans had developed PTSD. It is generally held that it often takes several years before symptoms show themselves.
The study concludes that whilst "the overall prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder in the military is not high", certain categories of service personnel are more susceptible than others. Future research is recommended to better understand the pattern of vulnerability as well as to improve screening, diagnosis and treatment and, one would hope, reduction.
If the US figures were applied to the UK Armed Forces then, of the 120,000 soldiers who served in Iraq and Afghanistan in the same period, 10,000 may be suffering from PTSD. Charities like Combat Stress who help traumatised veterans believe published statistics significantly underestimate the size of the problem - "soldiers often suffer in silence for a long time, waiting an average of 13 years after they leave the military before seeking help".

Link> BMJ: New onset and persistent symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder self reported after deployment and combat exposures: prospective population based US military cohort study