Is Iraq War Causing Mental Illness?
A study lead by Dr. Karen H. Seal of University of California, San Francisco found that 25% of the 100,000 veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan as of November 2005 were diagnosed with a mental disorder. This study was published in the Archives of Internal Medicine (2007:167 pp 476-82). The most common diagnosis was Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) which accounted for more than half of the veterans.
Of the roughly 25,000 vets diagnosed with a mental disorder, 44% had one diagnosis, 29% had two and 27% had three or more. Younger veterans ages 18-24 were found to be at higher risk of being diagnosed with a mental disorder. It was suggested this group was at higher risk because they were likely to be of lower rank and have more combat exposure.
These are disturbing statistics. Unfortunately the publication of research is often way behind real time as you can see with this article that was published in March 2007 and includes veterans returning home as of November 2005. Who knows what that number has grown to today, 18 months later? It is especially concerning that there are thousands with three or more mental disorders.
It is not uncommon for someone to have more than one diagnosis, as some disorders can beget others. PTSD and depression would be a good example. PTSD is an anxiety disorder that alone does not produce depressive symptoms. But individuals can subsequently develop depression or have had pre-existing depression and thus end up with two separate diagnoses if they later develop an anxiety disorder such as PTSD.
The study concluded by emphasizing the need for early screening and intervention to prevent these veterans from developing chronic mental illnesses, especially the younger population of veterans.