Reported June 14, 2010
Two new studies reveal just how common and serious mental health problems are in soldiers returning from war.
The first study, conducted by researchers from the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Silver Springs, Md., found up to 14 percent of soldiers returning from Iraq report serious mental health issues due to either posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or depression.
"Using the least stringent definition, we observed PTSD rates across Active Component and National Guard study groups, study time points ranging from 20.7 percent to 30.5 percent and depression rates ranging from 11.5 percent to 16 percent," the study authors write. "Using the strictest definitions with high symptom rates and serious functional impairment, PTSD prevalence ranged from 5.6 percent to 11.3 percent and depression prevalence from 5 percent to 8.5 percent."
The second study, conducted by researchers from the University of California, San Francisco and the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center, revealed older veterans with PTSD are more likely to develop dementia over a seven-year period than those without PTSD.
At follow-up, 17.2 percent of the veterans studied developed dementia. Veterans with PTSD had a 10.6 percent risk of developing dementia. The risk among those without dementia was 6.6 percent.
Authors of the study speculate that PTSD may contribute to dementia because it causes chronic stress. That stress may damage the hippocampus, a brain area that is critical for memory and learning, or cause changes in neurotransmitter and hormone levels.
Ivanhoe Broadcast News, Inc. / Winter Park, Florida