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Kids of Deployed Parents May Face Mental Health Risks
Date:5/20/2011

By Kathleen Doheny
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, May 19 (HealthDay News) -- Children whose parents are deployed in Afghanistan or Iraq face a higher risk of psychiatric problems requiring hospitalization, a new study indicates.

Researchers from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences tracked over 375,000 children, aged 9 to 17, whose parents were on active duty between 2007 and 2009.

"There was a 10 percent increased risk of hospitalization among children 9 to 17 whose parents were deployed," said Dr. Jeffrey Millegan, disaster and preventive psychiatry fellow at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences.

He presented the finding this week at the American Psychiatric Association's annual meeting in Honolulu.

In all, the investigators found that 2,533 children in the study were hospitalized for a mental or behavioral health problem, staying a median of eight days.

Of that, about one-third, or 858 children, had parents who were deployed during the study period.

After taking into account factors such as past history of psychiatric problems, Millegan arrived at the 10 percent increased risk. When he looked at the parents' length of deployment, he found the link only held up when the parent was gone longer than six months.

More attention needs to be paid to the mental health of children of active duty military parents when they are deployed, the researchers said.

What can parents do to lessen the impact? While resilience research is still in its infancy, Millegan suggested that family doctors should ask parents about to be deployed how their children are doing.

Parents and others who are aware of the risk, he said, may better catch mental health problems when they are less serious than those needing hospitalization.

The study was deemed novel by Dr. Jeffrey Borenstein, chair of the American Psychiatric Association's Council on Communications, w
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