PTSD three times more common in troops “engaged in combat”

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A recent study revealed that combat, rather than deployment alone, accounts for a sharp increase in new-onset post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among U.S. soldiers. Specifically, PTSD was three times more common in troops “engaged in combat” during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars than those that did not engage. Exposure to combat increased PTSD the most in air force and army troops, perhaps due to the “eyes on” nature of their engagements. Navy and coast guard troops showed decreased odds of PTSD after exposure to combat but still more than double compared to those who had not engaged. According to the authors of the study, “the results… … emphasize that specific combat exposures, rather than deployment itself, significantly affect the onset of symptoms of PTSD after deployment.” The following is an excerpt of an article from Medpage Today that reviews the study:

Combat exposure increased the likelihood of PTSD most for those in the army (odds ratio: 3.59) or the air force (OR: 3.38), found Tyler C. Smith, Ph.D., of the Naval Health Research Center here, and colleagues in a prospective population-based cohort study.

The odds were also more than doubled for those exposed to combat in the navy or Coast Guard (OR: 2.48) and Marines (OR: 2.78), they reported online in the BMJ.

Overall, the rate of new-onset self-reported symptoms in combat personnel was 4.3% compared with 2.3% in non-combat personnel.

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