Some Soldiers More Likely to Have PTSD

Post-traumatic stress disorder affects more troops who have history of mental health

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) The horrors of war haunt some returning soldiers more than others. Now scientists have a way to predict who is most vulnerable.

Military service members who went to war with a history of mental disorders are more likely to return with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Results from a recent study found that soldiers who showed signs of PTSD before they began serving in Iraq or Afghanistan, were nearly five times more likely to develop the disorder after returning home.

Those who reported other mental health issues before being deployed were 2.5 times more likely to suffer PTSD symptoms. And military personnel who sustained more serious injuries during their service were at greater risk of having PTSD.

"Soldiers most likely to experience PTSD have suffered mental health issues before going to war."

Donald A. Sandweiss, M.D., M.P.H., from the Naval Health Research Center, and colleagues studied U.S. service members who participated in the "Millennium Cohort Study." The program was created in 2001 to examine the health status of military members before, during and after deployment.

Study authors suggest that pre-deployment mental health screening may help protect service members during their time in the field. This type of screening,"might be useful to identify a combination of characteristics of deployed military personnel that could predict those most vulnerable or, conversely, those most resilient to post-deployment PTSD," the authors stated.

They add that this information could be used to help at-risk individuals before they enter conflicts, and lessen the impact of mental health disorders on others returning from war.

Study findings will be published in May, 2011 issue of Archives of General Psychiatry.

The Study

  • U.S. service members from all armed forces branches participated in study
  • A total of 22,630 individuals completed baseline questionnaires before deploying and one or more follow-up questionnaires during or after their service
  • Study started in 2001
  • 739 participants (3.3 percent) showed signs of PTSD or other mental health issues - depression, panic syndrome or another anxiety syndrome before deployment
  • 183 individuals (0.8 percent) sustained a physical injury during deployment
  • Those who reported PTSD symptoms before beginning service had nearly five times the odds of developing the disorder after deployment
  • Those who experienced other mental health issues at baseline, were 2.5 times more likely to have PTSD symptoms after deployment
  • Study also found that increases in the severity of injuries sustained during deployment also increased the likelihood of PSTD symptoms
  • Follow-up questionnaires showed that 1,840 participants (8.1 percent of study participants) had PTSD symptoms after deployment
Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
May 2, 2011
Last Updated:
May 2, 2011