Study tracks stress disorder in U.S. troops
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - About 9 percent of U.S. troops who have performed combat duty in Iraq and Afghanistan report experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder, according to a study led by Defense Department researchers.
The study, published on Tuesday in the British Medical Journal, provides the latest estimate of this mental disorder among U.S. troops returning from those wars.
It tracked PTSD among about 50,000 U.S. troops, looking at differences in rates among those who saw combat, those who deployed in noncombat roles and those who did not deploy.
Some troops develop it after wartime trauma like suffering wounds or witnessing others being hurt. It often appears months or years after a traumatic event.
"The unpredictability and intensity of urban combat, constant risk of roadside bombs, multiple and prolonged tours, and complex problems of differentiating enemies from allies can leave many troops with high stress levels and possible lasting health consequences," the researchers wrote.
The troops who participated in the study were first questioned about their health from 2001 to 2003 before deployment, then questioned again from 2004 to 2006.
The researchers found that 8.7 percent of those who were deployed into combat who never previously had PTSD reported experiencing symptoms of it or being diagnosed with it. That compares to 2.1 percent of troops who were deployed but did not see combat and 3 percent of those not deployed.
The study was led by Tyler Smith of the Department of Defense Center for Deployment Health Research at the Naval Health Research Center in San Diego.
Experts say PTSD symptoms include irritability or outbursts of anger, sleep difficulties, trouble concentrating, extreme vigilance and an exaggerated startle response. A person may initially respond to the trauma with horror or helplessness, then may persistently relive the event.
Some U.S. lawmakers and outside experts have expressed concern that the Pentagon has not adequately provided for the mental health needs of troops returning from war. The Pentagon has defended its performance.
The Institute of Medicine, which advises U.S. policymakers on medical issues, has said that other research indicated about 12.6 percent of troops who have served in Iraq and 6.2 percent who served in Afghanistan have experienced PTSD.
(Reporting by Will Dunham; Editing by Xavier Briand)