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Significant increase found in PTSD among military veterans

Monday 8th October 2018
A long-term study has revealed a notable rise in post traumatic stress disorder  among military veterans, particularly those serving on the front line in Afghanistan.
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The number of military veterans suffering from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has risen markedly over the course of a decade, a new study has found. 

Research from the Institute of Psychology, Psychiatry & Neuroscience at King's College London, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, found that while four per cent of veterans had PTSD in the two years from 2004-06, the rate had risen to six per cent in 2014-16.

There was a clear link between combat roles and PTSD, with 17 per cent of those fighting in Afghanistan suffering, compared with six per cent of support staff such as air crew and medics. 

It was the latest data to emerge from a study that has been running since 2003, the year of the Iraq war, and 62 per cent of the sample group for 2014-16 served in Iraq or Afghanistan. 

Lead author Dr Sharon Stevelink said: "For the first time we have identified that the risk of PTSD for veterans deployed in conflicts was substantially higher than the risk for those still serving.

"While the increase among veterans is a concern, not every veteran has been deployed and in general only about one in three would have been in a combat role."

The increase in levels of PTSD has followed a very different trajectory to other mental conditions suffered by veterans. 

Other common mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety remained fairly common, with over a fifth of veterans suffering from these, but there had been no change over time in their prevalence. 

Alcohol abuse had actually fallen over the decade, from affecting 15 per cent of military personnel in 2004-06 to ten per cent a decade later. 

The overall PTSD rates in the military are not markedly different from the population as a whole, where around 4-5 per cent are sufferers. The highest levels in the UK population are among sexual abuse victims, while 12 per cent of girls and women aged 16-24 are sufferers.

Written by Angela Newbury

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