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PTSD and Depression Get Worse after Deployment

17 Apr

In this population-based, cross-sectional study, researcher-epidemiologists from Walter Reed Army Institute of Research examined the prevalence of depression and PTSD in over 18,000 U.S. Army soldiers (4 Active Component and 2 National Guard infantry brigade combat teams), using several definitions, including functional impairment, as well as the comorbidity of alcohol misuse and aggressive behaviors. Additionally, they compared rates between Active Component and National Guard soldiers at the 3- and 12-month time points following deployment.

PARTICIPANTS: A total of 18,305 US Army soldiers from 4 Active Component and 2 National Guard infantry brigade combat teams.

Between 2004 and 2007, anonymous mental health surveys were collected at 3 and 12 months following deployment among 18,305 US Army soldiers, to measure current PTSD, depression, functional impairment, alcohol misuse, and aggressive behavior.

Prevalence rates for PTSD or depression with serious functional impairment ranged between 8.5% and 14.0%, with some degree of impairment between 23.2% and 31.1%. Alcohol misuse or aggressive behavior comorbidity was present in approximately half of the cases.  Rates remained stable for the Active Component soldiers but increased across all case definitions from the 3- to 12-month time point for National Guard soldiers.

The study concludes that prevalence rates of PTSD and depression after returning from combat ranged from 9% to 31% depending on the level of functional impairment reported. The high comorbidity with alcohol misuse and aggression highlights the need for comprehensive post-deployment screening. Persistent or increased prevalence rates at 12 months compared with 3 months post-deployment illustrate the persistent effects of war zone service and provide important data to guide post-deployment care.

Citation:  Thomas JL, Wilk JE, Riviere LA, McGurk D, Castro CA, Hoge CW. Prevalence of mental health problems and functional impairment among active component and National Guard soldiers 3 and 12 months following combat in Iraq. Archives of General Psychiatry. 2010 Jun; 67 (6): pages 614-23. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award