MONDAY, Nov. 8 (HealthDay News) -- Mental and behavioral problems cause children of U.S. soldiers deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan and other war zones to need considerably more outpatient medical visits than those with non-deployed parents, a new study suggests.
Researchers examined the medical records of more than 640,000 military children between the ages of 3 and 8, and found that those separated from deployed parents sought treatment 11 percent more often for cases of mood, anxiety and adjustment disorders. Visits for conditions such as autism and attention-deficit disorder, whose causes are not linked to deployment, also increased.
The study, reported online Nov. 8 and in the December issue of the journal Pediatrics, also revealed larger increases in mental and behavioral visits among older children, children with military fathers and children of married military parents.
"It's statistically significant, but I also think it's clinically significant," said lead researcher Dr. Gregory Gorman, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Md. "These are also probably the worst cases."
Gorman said he was surprised to find that while these types of medical visits went up, the rates of visits for all other medical conditions dropped.
"I have no direct evidence, but we hypothesize that when a parent is deployed . . . and the other parent has to do all of the duties, they may want to handle other problems at home," Gorman said. "These parents who remain at home need to multi-task even more."
Gorman and his team studied records of children of active duty personnel during 2006 and 2007 that were linked with their parent's deployment records. Children from ages 3 to 8 were chosen in part because they were at the developmental stage in which Gorman had observed an increase in behavioral concerns at
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