Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Combat Tied to New-Onset PTSD, Comorbidities

Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Combat Tied to New-Onset PTSD, Comorbidities

Article excerpt

ATLANTA -- Combat deployments are difficult and stressful, and might be the primary driver of postdeployment mental health symptoms, including new-onset posttraumatic stress disorder, suggests an ongoing study of more than 55,000 military personnel.

In addition, smoking and problem drinking are associated with more mental health symptoms among active service members and Guard or Reserve personnel in the longitudinal Millennium Cohort Study.

"PTSD, of course, comes with many comorbidities. [Problem drinking] is one of them," Tyler C. Smith, Ph.D., said at the annual meeting of the International Society for Trauma Stress Studies.

Dr. Smith and his associates assessed possible coping behaviors. "A significant amount of newly reported smoking and problem drinking is associated with new-onset PTSD." Of those with baseline symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), for example, 12% reported an alcohol-related problem, and 20% started smoking within 5 years of follow-up.

Dr. Smith and his colleagues assessed data from the PTSD Checklist-Clinical Version and the PRIME-MD patient health questionnaire. The survey also includes questions such as: "Has your doctor ever told you that you have PTSD or depression?"

At baseline, the weighted prevalence of PTSD was 3.6%. At 5 years, about 7% of those who had a PTSD screen were diagnosed with the disorder. In addition, about 49% of the cohort had a mental health diagnosis at 5 years.

New-onset PTSD symptoms were reported by 8.7% of those deployed with combat, 2.1% of those deployed without combat, and 3.0% of those who did not deploy.

"Not all deployments are equal, but there are subpopulations at risk for higher symptoms," said Dr. Smith, principal investigator of the Millennium Cohort Study and a researcher at Naval Health Research Center in San Diego. He had no relevant disclosures.

Military personnel with a history of assault might be a more vulnerable population, for example. New-onset PTSD symptoms or diagnosis among those deployed to combat was identified in 22% of women who reported prior assault and 10% of women who did not. Similarly, new symptoms or diagnosis was identified in 12% of men who deployed to combat and reported prior assault and 6% of men who did not.

Combat deployment also increased the likelihood of smoking. …

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