Military Personnel Who Serve In War Zones Face Increased Risk For Alcohol Abuse, Anxiety Disorders, Depression, And Marital And Family Conflict
Drug abuse, incarceration, unexplained illnesses, chronic fatigue syndrome, gastrointestinal symptoms, skin diseases, fibromyalgia, and chronic pain may also be associated with the stresses of being in a war, but the evidence to support these links is weaker. For other health problems and adverse effects that the committee reviewed, the data are lacking or contradictory; the committee could not determine whether links between these ailments and deployment-related stress exist.
Although the report cannot offer definitive answers about the connections between many health problems and the stresses of war, it is clear that veterans who were deployed to war zones self-report more medical conditions and poorer health than veterans who were not deployed. Those who were deployed and have PTSD in particular tend to report more symptoms and poorer health, the committee found. PTSD often occurs in conjunction with other anxiety disorders, depression, and substance abuse; its prevalence and severity is associated with increased exposure to combat.
A persistent obstacle to obtaining better evidence that would yield clearer answers is lack of pre- and post-deployment screenings of physical, mental, and emotional status. The U.S. Department of Defense should conduct comprehensive, standardized evaluations of service members' medical conditions, psychiatric symptoms and diagnoses, and psychosocial status and trauma history before and after they deploy to war zones. Such screenings would provide baseline data for comparisons and information to determine the long-term consequences of deployment-related stress. In addition, they would help identify at-risk personnel who might benefit from targeted intervention programs during deployment -- such as marital counseling or therapy for psychiatric or other disorders -- and help DOD and VA choose which intervention programs to implement for veterans adjusting to post-deployment life.
The study was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Established in 1970 under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine provides independent, objective, evidence-based advice to policymakers, health professionals, the private sector, and the public. The National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and National Research Council make up the National Academies.
The National Academies
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