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Preventing post-traumatic stress
Date:5/17/2012

A decade after the start of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, studies have shown that the incidence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among troops is surprisingly low, and a Harvard researcher credits the drop, in part, to new efforts by the Army to prevent PTSD, and to ensure those who do develop the disorder receive the best treatment available.

In an article that appears in the May 18 issue of Science, Professor of Psychology Richard J. McNally says there is reason for cautious optimism when it comes to the prevalence of PTSD. While early estimates suggested as many as 30 percent of troops might develop PTSD, current surveys show the actual rates ranging from 2.1 to 13.8 percent. The most rigorous survey of American troops found that 4.3% of all American military personnel deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan developed PTSD, and 7.6 of those reporting combat exposure did so.

"As a society we're much more aware of these issues than ever before," McNally said. "That is reflected by the fact that the military and the Veteran's Administration has established programs to ensure soldiers receive the best treatment possible. The title of my article is 'Are We Winning the War Against Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?' I think a provisional answer to that is, 'Yes, we might be.'"

While part of the drop may simply be that wars are less lethal in a decade of war in Iraq, fewer than 5,000 American troops were killed, compared to more than 55,000 killed over a similar period in Vietnam McNally suspect that new efforts by the Army to tackle the disorder sooner, and ensure soldiers receive the best treatment available, may be helping, too.

The suggestion that 30 percent of troops might develop PTSD was based on the findings of the National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study (NVVRS), completed in 1990, which found that 30.9 percent of Vietnam veterans showed symptoms of the PTSD. While later analyses brought that number down,
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Contact: Peter Reuell
preuell@fas.harvard.edu
617-496-8070
Harvard University
Source:Eurekalert

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