Condition Not Just Related to Deployment
By Brenda L. Mooney
WASHINGTON – While many studies have reported the prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF) veterans, most of the past research has been limited, such as to veterans who get their care at the VA, those who deployed or those seen at specialty care clinics.
A new study, however, sought to report weighted prevalence estimates of a positive screen for PTSD among OEF/OIF and non-deployed veterans, demographic subgroups and both VA healthcare system users and nonusers.
To do that, investigators from the VA Office of Public Health used the National Health Study for a New Generation of U.S. Veterans (NewGen).
The NewGen study includes 30,000 veterans deployed to OEF/OIF, sampled from the DoD Defense Manpower Data Center personnel roster, and 30,000 Veterans who served during the OEF/OIF era but were not deployed to either conflict, sampled from a VA/ DoD dataset used to assist in determining veteran benefits.
The results were published recently in the Journal of Traumatic Stress.
Investigators analyzed data from a total of 20,563 veterans who completed the study questionnaire; 64% of them were deployed.
Results indicated that the overall weighted population prevalence of probable PTSD based on the PTSD Checklist was 13.5%, similar to findings in prior studies.
PTSD prevalence was higher among deployed (15.7%) vs. non-deployed (10.9%) veterans.
Among veterans who served in OEF/OIF, VA healthcare users were much more likely to screen positive (24.7%) than non-users (9.8%). That also was true for veterans who never had been deployed.
In addition, there was increased risk of a positive screen for PTSD among VA healthcare users (OR = 2.71), African Americans (OR = 1.61), those who served in the Army (OR = 2.67), and those on active duty (OR = 1.69) among OEF/OIF veterans. The same trend with decreased magnitude was observed in non-deployed veterans. Men who were deployed had higher odds of PTSD than women, although that did not hold with non-deployment.
“PTSD is a significant public health problem in OEF/OIF-era veterans, and should not be considered an outcome solely related to deployment,” the study authors wrote.
If the experience of Vietnam veterans is any guide, the high rates of PTSD will have significant ramifications for veterans suffering from the stress disorder and the VA.
Thousands of Vietnam-era veterans continue to suffer from PTSD 41 years after the war ended, a recent congressionally mandated study shows.
Researchers also found that Vietnam veterans who had been identified as having PTSD symptoms in a related study performed in the mid-1980s had twice the risk of dying over the next 25 years than similar veterans without PTSD.
In preliminary findings presented recently at the American Psychological Association meeting in Washington, the National Vietnam Veterans Longitudinal Study (NVVLS) estimated the current prevalence of PTSD in combat Vietnam veterans at 11.2%. That translates to approximately 283,000 male and 400 female Vietnam veterans living today.
“That is really important for both DoD and VA —that for at least a subset of people who get PTSD they have it mostly for the rest of their lives,” William Schlenger, PhD of Abt Associates, co-principal investigator for the Vietnam study, told U.S. Medicine in a recent interview.
Complicating matters for the recent Iraq and Afghanistan veterans with PTSD is that co-existing traumatic brain injury (TBI) also is common.
A 2009 study of 340 troops who deployed in Iraq or Afghanistan found that most of the study participants did not have only a PTSD diagnosis. Of the 227 who had mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI), only 5.3% had solely an mTBI diagnosis, and of the 232 of 340 with PTSD, only 3% of those had PTSD alone. The others had multiple issues.
1. Dursa, E. K., Reinhard, M. J., Barth, S. K., & Schneiderman, A. I. (2014). Prevalence of a positive screen for PTSD among OEF/OIF and OEF/OIF-era Veterans in a large population-based cohort.Journal Traumatic Stress, 27, 542-549. PILOTS ID: 42839