One in 6 soldiers from Iraq war suffer PTSD

Published July 1, 2004 6:03PM (EDT)

Soldiers returning from the war in Iraq have a higher rate of post-traumatic stress syndrome than those who served in Afghanistan and the first Gulf War, according to a new study in The New England Journal of Medicine. "About one in six soldiers returning from the war in Iraq shows signs of post-traumatic stress disorder or other emotional difficulties, researchers are reporting today."

"Lower levels of psychiatric problems were found among troops who served in Afghanistan  The researchers surveyed more than 6,000 soldiers in the months before and after service in Iraq or Afghanistan. Almost 17 percent of those who fought in Iraq reported symptoms of major depression, severe anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder, compared with about 11 percent of the troops who served in Afghanistan."

"The rates were slightly higher than those found among soldiers in the 1991 Persian Gulf war, and lower than the rates in Vietnam veterans. But mental health studies of soldiers in those earlier conflicts were carried out years -- in the case of Vietnam, decades -- after the troops returned home. The new study examined soldiers before deployment and within three to four months after they returned."

"'In the Vietnam era, post-traumatic stress disorder hadn't even been recognized as a disorder,' said Dr. Charles W. Hoge, lead author of the study and chief of the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research. 'It wasn't until 10 or 15 years later that many of the experiences the soldiers were having were recognized as P.T.S.D. Because of those lessons, we're now trying to take a more proactive approach to mental health.'"

"He and other experts said that every war imposed unique pressures. Soldiers in Iraq have more contact with the enemy and more exposure to terrorist attacks than did troops in the earlier Iraq war." So, mounting American deaths on the battlefield, check. A strengthening terrorist insurgency in Iraq, check. A huge percentage of troops returning home with major psychological problems, check. And we haven't even won the peace.

By Stephen W. Stromberg

Stephen W. Stromberg is a former editorial fellow at Salon.

MORE FROM Stephen W. Stromberg

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

War Room