Kids of U.S. Soldiers in Iraq Prone to Stress

These youngsters may need special monitoring and care, researchers say

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WEDNESDAY, Feb. 21, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- Children of parents in the U.S. military serving in Iraq and elsewhere have higher blood pressure, heart rates and stress levels than other youngsters, researchers say.

Their study, published in the January issue of the journal Military Medicine, looked at 121 adolescents -- 48 with civilian parents, 20 with a parent deployed to Iraq, and 53 with a parent in the military but not in Iraq. The youngsters were assessed a few days after the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, and again about three months later.

At both points, the children of parents in the military showed increases in stress, blood pressure and heart rates.

While this was a small study that did not factor in non-war related sources of stress on the children, the results indicate the need for more research into the impact of war on children of military personal, said principal author Dr. Vernon Barnes, a physiologist at the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta.

"Given the continued presence of U.S. soldiers deployed to (Iraq) and mounting casualties, these findings suggest that youth with family members in the military, particularly those deployed overseas, may warrant increased attention of parents, educators and counselors during this period of active conflict," Barnes and his colleagues concluded in their study.

"Further research is warranted to determine whether stress reduction interventions may be effective in reducing stress levels and associated indices of sympathetic nervous system arousal in children of military personnel," the researchers said.

More information

The Nemours Foundation offers advice for parents on how to help children cope with stress.

SOURCE: Medical College of Georgia, news release, February 2007

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