In response to recent attention to the high rates of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in returning Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF) veterans, there have been considerable efforts to characterize their mental health services needs. However, the general medical care needs of women and men OEF/OIF veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and those with a Dual Diagnosis of PTSD plus Substance Use Disorder (SUD) have not been characterized.
This project characterizes the burden of medical illness associated with PTSD in women (and men) OEF/OIF returnees.
This supplemental project capitalized on a database created for VA HSR&D IAE 05-291, drawn from existing data sources: VA's National Patient Care Database, the MST Data Archive, and the OEF/OIF Roster. For all OEF/OIF roster members who received VA outpatient care during FY 2006 and during FY 2007, we used VA administrative records to identify those with PTSD, those with Dual Diagnosis (PTSD plus SUD), and those with specific medical conditions (the latter derived using the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality's Clinical Classifications Software framework, supplemented with expert clinical opinion).
A total of 90,558 (12,723 women, 77,461 men) OEF/OIF veteran VA patients with confirmed veteran status were identified; 27% of women and 35% of men had a diagnosis of PTSD. Women and men with PTSD had more medical conditions than did those with no mental health conditions (MHC). The most frequent medical conditions among women with PTSD were lumbosacral spine disorders, headache, lower extremity joint disorders, skin disorders, tendonitis/myalgia, dental disorders, allergies, vision defects, acute upper respiratory tract infections, and overweight/obesity. The most frequent medical conditions among men with PTSD were lumbosacral spine disorders, lower extremity joint disorders, hearing problems, tobacco use disorder, hyperlipidemia, tendonitis/myalgia, skin disorders, dental disorders, hypertension and sleep disturbance. After age adjustment, all of these conditions were significantly more likely among veterans with PTSD as compared to those with no mental health conditions. Additional analyses focused on the subset with PTSD, of whom 13% of women and 23% of men had comorbid SUD (Dual Diagnosis). Those with Dual Diagnosis had higher prevalence of diagnosed injuries than did those with PTSD alone. Among women, those with Dual Diagnosis also had higher rates of infections, gastrointestinal disorders, and genitourinary disorders than did those with PTSD alone. Dual Diagnosis was also associated with increased use of emergency department care and acute inpatient stays.
VA's efforts to meet the needs of the newest generation of returning veterans with PTSD need to take into account not only their increased mental health services needs, but also their increased medical services needs. These findings support VA's recent efforts to optimize integration of medical and mental health services. To fully meet the health care needs of the newest generation of veterans with PTSD, VA should assure availability of services relevant to their most prevalent health problems, e.g., chronic low back and joint problems (e.g., with pain clinics or rehabilitation care), hearing problems (e.g., with audiology services), and behaviorally related conditions like tobacco use and obesity (e.g., with behavioral medicine and the MOVE! program). For those PTSD patients with comorbid SUD, injury prevention should be an additional clinical focus; efforts to engage this special population in primary care could potentially reduce need for acute care services.
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Military and Environmental Exposures, Mental, Cognitive and Behavioral Disorders, Substance Abuse and Addiction
Comorbidity, Women - or gender differences, PTSD