For Veterans, Depression Is Deadlier Than PTSD

Article excerpt

Current depressive symptoms in veterans with a prior history of depression might be more of a concern as a risk factor for all-cause mortality than would a history of posttraumatic stress disorder, according to a study of more than 35,000 veterans.

"The data presented here highlight the importance of depression as a predictor of health outcomes and mortality among veterans ... [and] suggest that depression should not be ignored in studies evaluating the health consequences of PTSD," reported lead investigator Leslie S. Kinder, Ph.D., of the Veterans Affairs Puget Sound Health Care System, Seattle, and her colleagues.

Major depressive disorder and PTSD might be more common among U.S. veterans than in the general population, Dr. Kinder and her associates said. They pointed out that previous studies of primarily male soldiers and marines 3-4 months after returning from Iraq have found that 15% reported symptoms of depression and 20% reported PTSD. In the current study, the risk of death was evaluated from all causes during a 2-year follow-up period of 35,715 veterans in primary care who had completed a questionnaire for a separate study. This cohort of men with a mean age of 64 years included those with a history of depression alone (6,876), PTSD alone (748), and both depression and PTSD (3,762).

Compared with veterans without any history of depression or PTSD, a history of depression alone appeared to increase the risk of death significantly by 17% after the researchers controlled for age, demographics, and health behavior factors, as well as comorbid illnesses (cancer, lung disease, heart failure, diabetes, myocardial infarction, pneumonia, and stroke). …