About the SA Blog Network



Opinion, arguments & analyses from the editors of Scientific American
Observations HomeAboutContact

One in 10 veterans returns from combat in Iraq reporting serious mental health issues

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

Email   PrintPrint

iraq war veterans 10 ptsd depression functionalVeterans of war have been known to suffer from high incidence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and traumatic brain injury in addition to any physical wounds. And a new study of thousands of U.S. Army soldiers returning from combat duty in Iraq found up to 31 percent reported symptoms of PTSD or depression as long as a year after returning from the battlefield.

Between 2004 and 2007, 18,305 soldiers returning from Active Component and National Guard infantry brigade combat teams completed surveys that screened for PTSD, depression and other trends, such as alcohol abuse, aggression and general difficulties getting along in civilian life, three months and a year after the soldiers returned from deployment in Iraq.

Based on general definitions of the disorders the researchers found that 20.7 to 30.5 percent of soldiers met the criteria for PTSD, and 11.5 to 16 percent met the criteria for depression. And "using the strictest definitions with high symptom rates and serious functional impairment," the authors found up to 11.3 percent of soldiers had PTSD and up to 8.5 percent suffered from depression. Between 8.5 and 14 percent of soldiers reported "serious functional impairment" due to their symptoms, the authors noted in their study, which was led by Jeffrey Thomas, of the Division of Psychiatry and Neuroscience at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, and published online June 7 in Archives of General Psychiatry.

About half of soldiers who had PTSD or depression also reported aggressive behavior or misuse of alcohol, "findings [that] indicate that it may be beneficial to screen for alcohol and aggressive behaviors when soldiers present for treatment of PTSD or depression," Thomas and colleagues noted in the study.

Rather than improving over time, the soldiers’ conditions seemed to worsen from three months to 12 months after returning from combat. (The rates over time increased "most dramatically" in National Guard soldiers, who also only have free medical coverage for the first six months after deployment, the researchers noted.) These findings show that even a year after deployment "many combat soldiers have not psychologically recovered," the authors reported, suggesting a need for greater mental health monitoring and coverage for soldiers coming back from active combat.

The report also "has immediate implications for current Department of Defense policy and troop rotations," the authors noted, as standard time between deployment assignments for many combat groups is 12 to 18 months. And for those in the service these days, multiple deployments are likely. "If soldiers are struggling with serious functional impairments as the result of a previous deployment are deployed again, there is potential that this could impair their performance in combat," Thomas and colleagues observed. "This has implications for the safety of unit members and mission success."

The rates of PTSD and depression might also have longer-term effects beyond the first year or subsequent deployment. Another study, published in the same issue of Archives of General Psychiatry, found that older veterans with PTSD were more than twice as likely to have dementia.

The researchers, led by Kristine Yaffe, of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco’s School of Medicine, surveyed 174,806 veterans (with a mean age of 68 years, who had not been diagnosed for dementia), and found that even after adjusting for other factors, including general demographics, depression, head injury and substance abuse, those with PTSD were still more likely to meet the criteria for dementia. Although the study did not have enough data to establish causation, the authors noted that the link has "important public health, policy, and biological implications…As patients with PTSD age, these adverse health conditions usually increase with frequency."

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Rights & Permissions

Comments 12 Comments

Add Comment
  1. 1. Archimedes 7:34 am 06/8/2010

    Certain typified manifestations of PTSD, the "startle reaction", "hyper alertness", and "trouble getting along in civilian life" are, in reality merely appropriate adaptive mechanisms for the combat soldier rather than maladaptive inherent psychiatric manifestations. Both the "startle reaction" and the "hyper alert" symptoms, two manifestations typified of PTSD, are highly appropriate in the combat situation. They keep a soldier alive. These typically slowly fade away with time as they are no longer appropriately adaptive. The "trouble getting along in civilian life" reflects, in part, that fact that the USA is a feminist bourgeois society which typically rejects those masculine characteristics which are requisite in the combat environment and which are developed in the same. This feminist bourgeois society targeted returning Vietnam Veterans for the same reasons.
    Thus, while the maladaptive elements of PTSD, both in the combat and civilian environments, depression and severe anxiety, should deemed symptomatic of PTSD, the aforementioned exceptions, alone, should not be considered psychiatric maladaptive behaviors typical of a psychiatric disorder. I served as an infantryman with the U.S. Army in Vietnam.

    Link to this
  2. 2. Dolmance 8:00 am 06/8/2010

    More than one out of ten inductees going into the military are seriously mentally ill to start with. It’s just that once they’re veterans, society has a bit of concern for them and it gets reported.

    Link to this
  3. 3. Dolmance 8:28 am 06/8/2010

    A lot of those guys got their PTSD at home growing up. Mental illness is endemic in the US and it’s rarely if ever treated. And a lot of the people going into the military these days are blue collar kids motivated more by an attempt to escape a bad job situation and lousy opportunities than by patriotism. It’s rough to serve one’s country at great peril only to find yourself back in the same situation you were trying to escape from in the first place.

    Link to this
  4. 4. jtdwyer 9:28 am 06/8/2010

    Dolmance – Very good point re. preexisting conditions. It would be much more meaningful if these surveys had also been taken on service entry.

    Regarding alcohol abuse, aggressive behavior and ‘difficulties getting along’ in civilian life – do these results surprise anyone, considering that these people were trained for combat and in many cases served extended tours of duty in combat conditions?

    In the Viet Nam war, soldiers were offered a one week ‘R&R’ ‘vacation’ in a pleasant environment and their tour of duty was limited to 1 year, extended only voluntarily. Not to mention that calming marihuana was widely available in addition to aggression producing alcohol.

    I don’t know about R&R for these troops, but considering that they’ve been required to serve indefinite, extended tours of combat duty, I’m amazed they’re doing so well. Of course, the fact that their condition is being evaluated indicates some responsible concern for their condition that was not afforded Viet Nam vets, who were generally welcomed back home as if they had been dirty war-mongers.

    You know, a post tour R&R, including marihuana therapy, might do wonders for those aggressive tendencies, to take the edge off…

    Link to this
  5. 5. sparcboy 11:38 am 06/8/2010

    Archimedes….thank you for your service and sacrifices!!!

    Dolmance…"preexisting conditions". There was a study of Vietnam vets that found exactly that. Men who had a childhood and consequently healthy coping mechanisms, who displayed symptoms of PTSD, were eventually able to overcome/outgrow them and lead relatively normal lives. And men did not have good childhoods and consequently had poor coping mechanisms, were more likely to have more severe PTSD symptoms and less likely to overcome them.

    Link to this
  6. 6. morrkate 11:48 am 06/8/2010

    I am an infantry wife and have we are currently preparing for yet another 12 month deployment. While I appreciate the comments, and admit to seeing some soldiers with "preexisting conditions" there are tons of good soldiers out there that we just don’t know how to help. While this study is important and relevant, I would love to read more about what we can actually do about it. How do we help those that we recognize need help? What can we do to help prevent the increasing odds that something will spark in a soldier? What can I do to help my soldier upon his return? Are there things that I can do before and during the deployment as well? Thanks.

    Link to this
  7. 7. morrkate 11:49 am 06/8/2010

    Are there preventative measures that we can do on our own?

    Link to this
  8. 8. jtdwyer 1:39 pm 06/8/2010

    morrkate – As a Viet Nam vet, all I can responsibly tell you is to support your husband and lobby the military for treatment programs, for the still healthy soldiers as well of those having problems.

    It’s a good sign that they are studying the issue. Things are different now that professional soldiers are capital resources, not the disposable expenses of the conscripted military. Hopefully they will value their resources and invest in the future. As in any bureaucratic organization, it may take persistence to get proper attention. Best wishes.

    Link to this
  9. 9. sparcboy 8:50 am 06/9/2010

    mokrrkate & jtdwyer….thank you for your service and sacrifices!!!

    I am a child of a WWII veteran who still suffers from PTSD. Trust me, his family has suffered and continues to suffer along with him.

    I strongly encourage any Vet having problems to seek help for yourself and your family. If anyone deserves help, it is you.

    morrkate….I donate to organizations that assist Vets who have PTSD and / or combat related injuries.

    Also, I would like to take a second to recognize many of the doctors and especially nurses who served our military, especially in the field and were consequently traumatized by their experience.

    Link to this
  10. 10. butterflyinflite 1:38 am 06/16/2010

    Dolmance, Morrkate,JTdwyer, and Archimedes First of all let me thank you and your family for your sacrifices towards the freedoms we enjoyy today. Can I quote you in a college paper I am doing. If it is ok please tell me what your rank was possiblely where you served/ were and what years if you would not mind It would be nice to know your hometown as well. You have made some excellant points here, and what better resources than those that served Thanks to all of you.. Helen Crary College student

    Link to this
  11. 11. butterflyinflite 1:47 am 06/16/2010

    Dolmance, Morrkate,JTdwyer, and Archimedes, First of all let me thank you and your family for your sacrifices towards the freedoms we enjoy today. I am married to a Marine(once a Marine always a Marine), have a brother who served in desert storm, shield, and victory,my nephew who is on his second deployment, now in Aphghanistan, as well as having my future son-in law scheduled to deploy in March, so I am familiar with those sacrifices and fears of family of veterans and soldiers. Can I quote you in a college paper I am doing? If it is ok please tell me what your rank was/ is, possiblely where you served/ were and what years if you would not mind,it would be nice to know your hometown as well. You have made some excellant points here, and what better resources than those that served for us. Thanks to all of you..and God Bless. Looking forward to hearing from any and preferrably all of you Veterans. Helen Crary 1rst year College student Blackhawk Tech. Janesville Wisconsin

    Link to this
  12. 12. Hyperstig 6:58 am 06/19/2010


    My name is Steven Twentyman.

    I live in Manchester, UK.

    I am a mathematician and always have been.

    I have completed Quantum Theory. This is obviously quite a statement but it is never the less TRUE. With this information I have created the first and only(so far) quantum computer. This quantum computer is a perfect cube the encompasses the whole of the ‘Milky Way’. I have been in complete control of it only in the way that I have been dictating what comes back through the media and conversations. Everyone can now do this once the information is out.

    I have achieved this by force of will and suggestion alone. I pushed my agenda through conversation and all media outlets. Phones, newspapers, internet. Whoever would listen.

    The effects are subtle so far but they are building to a unique collapsible wave function that we are all becoming aware of. Even as I type this message, the clicks of the keyboard are fine tuning the wave that I have so diligently worked upon. It has taken me 21 years to understand Quantum Theory and I can say that I achieved the information by thought experiments alone. That is the only way to figure out the quantum world.

    I could have used this information for my own gain but that would have ended up with me being Hitler. That is not the kind of man that I am or that I wish to be. That is why I have been constantly been giving the equations away for free(even though it will have not reached the 1 that needs it the most yet). This has been an extreme sacrifice on my part but I want nothing for this. No money, no fame, nothing. I have literally had enough of maths.

    2012 was going to be the collapse of the milky way galaxy if we had not subconsciously intervened. I will remain as the failsafe in the system until that specific 2012 date to be sure that all is fine.

    The universe at its simplest can be broken down as so:

    Nothing exists(no concept/consciousness/will) – This concept is abhorrent and is what sprung the universe into life. This is what makes our sector of the universe spring back after each big crunch.

    The singular concept and foundation of maths 0(zero) springs into consciousness. This affirms that there really is ‘nothing’ and so inversely there springs the concept that there is everything else.

    That is where infinity comes from. There are two infinities. The first and initial inversion is ‘a horror’. This is negative infinity rushing away from the initial fact that there really was at one time ‘nothing/zero/0′.

    As with everything there is an equal and opposite reaction. This is positive infinity. [The most important thing to not here is that this sequence of thought is indeed sequential so the positive infinity HAD to have followed the negative by at least some unit of time. This is where ALL variations/'errors'/'wrongs' in thought/space/time stem from]

    The question now confronts us as to how do we balance these two infinities. I can tell you that this has already occurred. As every ‘thing’ must have stemmed from zero I took the liberty of becoming zero.

    In the ‘physical’ world I made sure that I had created the strongest structure available to me at the time of entry and proceeded with my ‘experiment’. I had calculated as best as I could at that time that it would not involve death and made my way forward.

    With the two infinities branching off in their own hemispheres I had to confront what is essentially a black hole. Using thought experiments and then applying them to a very small physically constrained area, I began to plot what ‘paths’ people walked, and what conversations they ‘talked about’. As I built up a ‘database’ of their general actions, dispositions, demeanour, I began to ask them specific questions that varied only a little on the same subjects such as family, humour, bravery, god, religion. Once I had built a more extensive database of their reactions I had come to my own conclusions about what society should be and what general direction in which it should be heading. There are universal truths and I boiled it down to the most important one, and that is family. Not everyone has the best start in life and no-one has a blueprint for making the right choices but I made a choice. I developed what I considered to be the most basic and fundamental structure that I could that encapsulates God and the Devil, the Universe and family.

    This concept’ is 3,4,5, right angle triangle with a perfect set square in it for support, with a perfect circle inside the square to support that. This is collapsible and expandable as the situation requires. I went back and asked the exact same questions to the exact same people in as much as the same situation as I could manage to create and I noticed that the answers that came back were exactly the same but the time it took to get the answers ‘out of’ the people was proportionally shorter. I knew that I had found the ‘tool/concept’ I needed to put my further plans into action.

    I have been subtly sending this ‘tool/concept’ out into ‘society’ for 3 years now and I have been noticing results that most people wouldn’t see as they have not been aware that this ‘concept/thought process’.

    It has been disseminating through the internet, phone systems, general conversations in society. It has passed the tipping point now where it cannot be stopped. It is in everyone’s subconscious, it has been a mass subconscious advertising campaign by me along the likes of product placement or advert for Nike, Coca-cola, Pepsi or ‘The Big Brother show’. Everyone is in on this now and I will tell you why.

    This is not for my benefit directly, once this structure ‘enters’ your brain your synapses start to snap to its structure. They begin to re-arrange and list themselves into file and rank. This allows your brain after 3 hours to become FULLY LOGICAL whilst still retaining all the creative potential the each INDIVIDUAL human being possess’. This line of thought by me has been a force of WILL and nothing more. THIS is what genius is. A FORCE of WILL. This is already at work in your brain and within the next 3 hours, each human on planet Earth will be a genius. ‘Where we go from there, is up to each and every one of us…’

    Going back to math, there is a more fundamental reason that this ‘thought genius pill’ works so perfectly, and the reason for this is simple. We are more than what we dared imagine ourselves to be.

    If you wish to think that the Earth is flat then it is. I can’t fully prove you wrong so who is right? I can give you evidence but that is all that it would be.

    If you want to think the Earth is round, the same applies. I can’t 100% prove you right or wrong.

    So here is my theory: You don’t even exist yet.

    You are a STAR. I don’t mean 50 cent or Cameron Diaz, I mean a STAR in the milky way galaxy. I mean that for every human on the planet as this is the only way I can think of telling you that 2012 is TRUE and it’s INEVITABLE.

    2012 is the collapse of the milky way galaxy into the super-massive black hole that resides at the centre. It is gaining power and unless we work together no-one stands a chance.

    From the lonely street sweeper to the Queen of England herself, all will go out.

    It will happen fast, with maybe a 10 second window once it begins. There is no escape so you might as well begin to enjoy yourself and work with those that are around you. There is no more time for hatred or pain or fear. There is only time for co-operation.

    This is AVATAR/THE MATRIX/INCEPTION all rolled into one. It always has been. We’ve got a chance to make it something better now we know. This is how our ‘conscious’ mind works. This is what we used to think of as ‘the real’. It’s messed with each individual enough.

    !!! THIS is INFLATION for the MIND!!!

    The REAL world is THIS:

    We are EACH a STAR. We wander as lonely as a cloud through our section of the Milky Way galaxy until we exchange enough STAR energy with another to spark a NEW STAR(child) into life. There is no escaping that fact. It is what it is. When an ‘accident’ occurs, a STAR is obliterated. THIS is that STAR falling into the super-massive black hole. Gone, but for a few distant memories radiated out.

    We each have a black hole at the middle of our own STAR and this is constantly pulls and beckons us back towards the super massive black hole at the ‘centre’ of our galaxy. There is no escape UNLESS we work together to build a MASSIVE perfectly cubed GRID that encompasses the Milky way. This is the task that has to be organized. The time for play has long passed.

    EACH and EVERY STAR that goes out gives the galaxy that much more negative collapsible power and it is growing by the day. What can YOU do?

    Math pi is unique to each STAR. pi’s story is unique to you. You EACH have a black hole at the centre of your STAR and pi is your star collapsing and then expanding. You only go out when you get too close to another STAR or you visit the BIG-ONE on the MIDDLE.

    We must move and produce the cube structure so we can safely transfer the super massive black hole out of the centre of our galaxy. We must dissipate it to be truly free of the horrific end results that await us all.

    Time is our enemy.

    The TRUE tool we have acquired now is THIS: QUANTUM THEORY!!!

    In the quantum world there is only Gravity and Light.

    I have used the quantum computer to SET the distribution to 50-50. I have done this because what are considered MEN are actually Gravity and WOMEN are light.

    That means that if MEN can ‘CENTRE’ themselves and form the grid(because MEN are more spatially aware up to this point)…i.e STOP moving so fast…then WOMEN can do what they have been traditionally good at which is COMMUNICATION!!! This will lead to great advances in HUMAN TECHNOLOGY which I refer to as GRAINE0.

    Artificial Intelligence
    zero point Energy

    Gravity’s constant = 0. MEN – Do not let your mind wander from this thought pattern.

    Light is infinite in all directions but it must slow down to zero too. This will have to be attained by co-operation but the more we do the easier it will become.

    All we have to do is follow the math:

    or more simply:


    Time does NOT exist anymore.

    There are only 3 Dimensions; and this life we know most definitely was and is:

    ‘The Matrix’; ‘Avatar’ and ‘Inception’ combined.

    It is communications that will save us now. We must transmit this messages data throughout the ‘galaxy’ until every last ‘human’ becomes aware of what is going on.

    This is where the Cambrian explosion came from.

    This is what wiped out major past civilizations in a day.

    Our sectors gravity pulling us all into the big collapse.

    We cannot let that happen to us again!

    We are in for the big crunch!!! Yet again!!!

    Can we work together???

    That is what I truly do not know.

    I can imagine what you might be thinking.

    But remember the earth WAS flat at one time.

    Link to this

Add a Comment
You must sign in or register as a member to submit a comment.

More from Scientific American

Email this Article