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Poor Health Linked to PTSD Risk Among Vets
Date:4/17/2009

Risk highest for those with low mental and physical scores, study says

FRIDAY, April 17 (HealthDay News) -- Military personnel who have poor mental or physical health before they go into combat are more likely to experience post-traumatic stress disorder following their battlefield experience, a U.S. military study finds.

The study of 5,410 personnel found that 395 of them -- 7.3 percent -- had a diagnosis or symptoms of PTSD after fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan, according to the report in the April 17 online edition of BMJ.

More than half of the cases of PTSD occurred in those with the lowest health scores on a questionnaire they filled out between 2001 and 2003, the report said. The incidence of PTSD in the group was assessed by a second questionnaire completed between 2004 and 2006, after combat experience.

The data came from the Millenium Cohort Study, a long-running study of the health of American military personnel.

The result is not surprising, said Keith A. Young, vice chair for research at Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine, who has done work on PTSD.

"It's pretty clear that people coming in with reduced mental capacity are more likely to develop PTSD after combat," Young said. "One of the major conditions that brings down the mental health score of individuals is depression. Our hypothesis is that depression and PTSD have a commonality of a brain anatomical variant."

And, he said, "it is relatively hard to disentangle poor mental health from poor physical health. People who have depression are likely to have poor physical health as well. They are less disposed to take proper care of themselves."

One of the notable findings of the study is that the military personnel had better scores of mental and physical health than the general U.S. population, said Bruce Dohrenwend, a professor of epidemiology in the department of psychiatry at the Co
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