Repeat Iraq Tours Raise Risk of PTSD, Army Finds
By Ann Scott Tyson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 20, 2006; Page A19
U.S. soldiers serving repeated Iraq deployments are 50 percent more likely than those with one tour to suffer from acute combat stress, raising their risk of post-traumatic stress disorder, according to the Army's first survey exploring how today's multiple war-zone rotations affect soldiers' mental health.
More than 650,000 soldiers have deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan since 2001 -- including more than 170,000 now in the Army who have served multiple tours -- so the survey's finding of increased risk from repeated exposure to combat has potentially widespread implications for the all-volunteer force. Earlier Army studies have shown that up to 30 percent of troops deployed to Iraq suffer from depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), with the latter accounting for about 10 percent.
The findings reflect the fact that some soldiers -- many of whom are now spending only about a year at home between deployments -- are returning to battle while still suffering from the psychological scars of earlier combat tours, the report said.
"When we look at combat, we look at some very horrific events," said Col. Ed Crandell, head of the Army's Mental Health Advisory Team, which polled 1,461 soldiers in Iraq in late 2005. "They come back, they know they're going to deploy again," and as a result they don't ever return to normal levels of stress, Crandell said.
Overall, soldiers in Iraq are facing a greater exposure to some key traumatic events than in the past, according to the report, the Army's third mental health survey conducted in Iraq since 2003. Seventy-six percent of soldiers surveyed, for example, said they knew someone who had been seriously injured or killed, and 55 percent experienced the explosion of a roadside bomb or booby trap nearby.
The proportion of soldiers who reported that they suffered a combination of anxiety, depression and acute stress rose to 17 percent, compared with 13 percent in the last survey in 2004.
Fourteen percent of soldiers surveyed said they have taken medications, such as antidepressants, for mental health problems.
Combat stress is significantly higher among soldiers with at least one previous tour -- 18.4 percent, compared with 12.5 percent of those on their first deployment, the survey found.
posted by Steve @ 1:44:00 AM