Soldiers' Health Status Predicts Combat-Related PTSD

Low mental, physical scores linked to considerably higher risk of post-traumatic stress disorder

FRIDAY, April 17 (HealthDay News) -- Soldiers with low mental or physical health status before combat exposure are at significantly increased risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), according to a study published online April 16 in BMJ.

Cynthia A. LeardMann, a senior biostatistician at the Naval Health Research Center in San Diego, Calif., and colleagues studied 5,410 combat-deployed soldiers who completed baseline (2001 to 2003) and follow-up (2004 to 2006) questionnaires. At follow-up, 395 (7.3 percent) of the subjects were found to have new onset symptoms or a diagnosis of PTSD.

The researchers' adjusted analysis showed that a baseline mental health score below the 15th centile was associated with a tripled risk of PTSD compared to baseline scores in the 15th to 85th centiles. They also found that a baseline physical health score below the 15th centile was associated with a doubled risk of PTSD.

"PTSD is a debilitating disorder that is associated with considerable morbidity," the authors write. "It is essential to determine risk factors for PTSD to provide intervention services before, during, and after military deployment. We have identified an at-risk population whose functional health seems to predict vulnerability to PTSD after combat deployment. In theory, such a population could be targeted for PTSD prevention programs, early intervention after exposure to stress, or even protection from stressful exposures, when possible."

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