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Publication Briefs

Study Shows Majority of National Guard Soldiers Recently Returned from Combat in Iraq Did Not Meet Criteria for Mental Health Disorder

In recent years, there have been increasing concerns regarding the mental health of soldiers returning from the current wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. This study provides the first known report of rates of mental health disorders and comorbidities that were diagnosed by structured clinical interviews, as opposed to self-report, in a sample of 348 National Guard troops who returned from Iraq. Investigators also examined how mental health diagnoses impacted their social functioning. Participants were drawn from the Readiness and Resilience in National Guard Soldiers study – a longitudinal study of mental health after combat deployment in Iraq from 3/06 to 7/07. Investigators assessed data from clinical interviews, as well as self-report measures of social adjustment and quality of life 6-12 months following deployment.

Findings show that a majority (62%) of National Guard soldiers who returned from combat deployment to Iraq did not meet criteria for a mental health disorder. However, the soldiers had slightly higher rates than community and non-deployed military samples across all mental health diagnoses, with the exception of drug use disorders. Depressive disorders were the most common, followed by non-PTSD anxiety disorders. Mental health diagnoses were associated with poorer functioning and quality of life, with PTSD having the strongest negative relationship with social functioning and quality of life. Results also show that more than 85% of soldiers with a diagnosis of PTSD had at least one additional mental health diagnosis, with depressive disorders being the most common. In addition, female soldiers were significantly more likely to have a mental health diagnosis than male soldiers. Specifically, women were diagnosed with PTSD, depressive disorders, and non-PTSD anxiety disorders at twice the rate of men.

PubMed Logo Kehle S, Reddy M, Ferrier-Auerbach A, et al. Psychiatric diagnoses, comorbidity, and functioning in National Guard troops deployed to Iraq. Journal of Psychiatric Research June 9, 2010; e-pub ahead of print.

This study was partly funded by HSR&D (RRP 08-385). Dr. Kehle is part of HSR&D’s Center for Chronic Disease Outcomes Research in Minneapolis, MN.

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