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      Combat duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, mental health problems, and barriers to care.

      The New England journal of medicine

      War, Adolescent, United States, etiology, epidemiology, Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic, Socioeconomic Factors, Prevalence, Prejudice, Patient Acceptance of Health Care, statistics & numerical data, psychology, Military Personnel, utilization, Mental Health Services, Mental Disorders, Male, Iraq, Humans, Health Services Accessibility, Female, Depressive Disorder, Delivery of Health Care, Data Collection, Combat Disorders, Anxiety, Afghanistan, Adult

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          Abstract

          The current combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have involved U.S. military personnel in major ground combat and hazardous security duty. Studies are needed to systematically assess the mental health of members of the armed services who have participated in these operations and to inform policy with regard to the optimal delivery of mental health care to returning veterans. We studied members of four U.S. combat infantry units (three Army units and one Marine Corps unit) using an anonymous survey that was administered to the subjects either before their deployment to Iraq (n=2530) or three to four months after their return from combat duty in Iraq or Afghanistan (n=3671). The outcomes included major depression, generalized anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which were evaluated on the basis of standardized, self-administered screening instruments. Exposure to combat was significantly greater among those who were deployed to Iraq than among those deployed to Afghanistan. The percentage of study subjects whose responses met the screening criteria for major depression, generalized anxiety, or PTSD was significantly higher after duty in Iraq (15.6 to 17.1 percent) than after duty in Afghanistan (11.2 percent) or before deployment to Iraq (9.3 percent); the largest difference was in the rate of PTSD. Of those whose responses were positive for a mental disorder, only 23 to 40 percent sought mental health care. Those whose responses were positive for a mental disorder were twice as likely as those whose responses were negative to report concern about possible stigmatization and other barriers to seeking mental health care. This study provides an initial look at the mental health of members of the Army and the Marine Corps who were involved in combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our findings indicate that among the study groups there was a significant risk of mental health problems and that the subjects reported important barriers to receiving mental health services, particularly the perception of stigma among those most in need of such care. Copyright 2004 Massachusetts Medical Society

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          Most cited references 15

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          Posttraumatic stress disorder in the National Comorbidity Survey

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            Comparative validity of three screening questionnaires for DSM-IV depressive disorders and physicians? diagnoses

             Craig B. Lowe (2004)
            The aim of this study was to compare the validity of the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS), the WHO (five) Well Being Index (WBI-5), the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ), and physicians' recognition of depressive disorders, and to recommend specific cut-off points for clinical decision making. A total of 501 outpatients completed each of the three depression screening questionnaires and received the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV (SCID) as the criterion standard. In addition, treating physicians were asked to give their psychiatric diagnoses. Criterion validity and Receiver Operating Characteristics (ROC) were determined. Areas under the curves (AUCs) were compared statistically. All depression scales showed excellent internal consistencies (Cronbach's alpha: 0.85-0.90). For 'major depressive disorder', the operating characteristics of the PHQ were significantly superior to both the HADS and the WBI-5. For 'any depressive disorder', the PHQ showed again the best operating characteristics but the overall difference did not reach statistical significance at the 5% level. Cut-off points that can be recommended for the screening of 'major depressive disorder' had sensitivities of 98% (PHQ), 94% (WBI-5), and 85% (HADS). Corresponding specificities were 80% (PHQ), 78% (WBI-5), and 76% (HADS). In contrast, physicians' recognition of 'major depressive disorder' was poor (sensitivity, 40%; specificity, 87%). Our sample may not be representative of medical outpatients, but sensitivity and specificity are independent of disorder prevalence. All three questionnaires performed well in depression screening, but significant differences in criterion validity existed. These results may be helpful in the selection of questionnaires and cut-off points.
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              Post-traumatic stress disorder in the general population. Findings of the epidemiologic catchment area survey.

              There have been numerous studies of post-traumatic stress disorder in trauma victims, war veterans, and residents of communities exposed to disaster. Epidemiologic studies of this syndrome in the general population are rare but add an important perspective to our understanding of it. We report findings on the epidemiology of post-traumatic stress disorder in 2493 participants examined as part of a nationwide general-population survey of psychiatric disorders. The prevalence of a history of post-traumatic stress disorder was 1 percent in the total population, about 3.5 percent in civilians exposed to physical attack and in Vietnam veterans who were not wounded, and 20 percent in veterans wounded in Vietnam. Post-traumatic stress disorder was associated with a variety of other adult psychiatric disorders. Behavioral problems before the age of 15 predicted adult exposure to physical attack and (among Vietnam veterans) to combat, as well as the development of post-traumatic stress disorder among those so exposed. Although some symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, such as hyperalertness and sleep disturbances, occurred commonly in the general population, the full syndrome as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, third edition, was common only among veterans wounded in Vietnam.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                10.1056/NEJMoa040603
                15229303

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