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Veterans With PTSD Suffer More Physical Ailments Than Their Peers

Female vets with disorder plagued by more medical illnesses than male counterparts, study shows

FRIDAY, Sept. 24, 2010 (HealthDay News) -- U.S. soldiers with post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan suffer more physical ailments than those with no mental health issues, and this effect is stronger in women than men, a new study shows.

The findings suggest that veterans with PTSD need closer integration of their physical and mental health care, said Dr. Susan Frayne, of the VA Palo Alto Health Care System and Stanford University.

The study appears online in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

The researchers analyzed data from more than 90,000 U.S. veterans who used VA services and found that women with PTSD had a median of seven physical ailments, compared with a median of 4.5 among those with no mental health issues. Lower spine disorders, headache and leg-related joint disorders were the most common physical complaints.

Among men, those with PTSD had a median of five physical ailments, compared with a median of four for those with no mental health concerns. Lower spine disorders, leg-related joint disorders, and hearing problems were the most common physical conditions.

"Health delivery systems serving our veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder should align clinical services with their medical care needs, especially for common diagnoses like painful musculoskeletal conditions," Frayne said in a journal news release.

"Looking to the future, the impetus for early intervention is evident. If we recognize the excess burden of medical illness in veterans with PTSD who have recently returned from active service and we address their health care needs today, the elderly veterans of tomorrow may enjoy better health and quality of life," she concluded.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health has more about PTSD.

SOURCE: Journal of General Internal Medicine, news release, Sept. 20, 2010
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