Magazine article Science News

Veterans' Post-Vietnam Health: Mental Effects but Mostly OK

Magazine article Science News

Veterans' Post-Vietnam Health: Mental Effects but Mostly OK

Article excerpt

Veterans' post-Vietnam health: Mental effects but mostly OK

Veterans who served in Vietnam suffer more depression, anxiety and alcohol abuse than their age-matched counterparts who served elsewhere, but their overall physical health, reproductive abilities and social adjustment are not currently impaired, says a new federal study. Results of the four-year study involving more than 15,000 veterans are likely to rankle some of those who have reported special problems among Vietnam veterans.

Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta found Vietnam veterans reported significantly more health problems and more birth defects in their children than non-Vietnam veterans, but that medical records for the most part failed to support their claims. Other conclusions from the study, summarized in the May 13 JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION and based on comparisons to non-Vietnam veterans, include the following:

* Vietnam veterans are clinically depressed roughly twice as often (4.5 percent versus 2.3 percent) and are more likely to have alcohol abuse or dependence (13.7 percent versus 9.2 percent). Among Vietnam veterans, about 15 percent had suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder at some time during or since combat, with 2.2 percent having had the disorder during the month before their medical exam. But, at the time of study, the two groups of veterans were "similar in terms of level of education, employment, income, marital status and satisfaction with personal relationships," the authors say.

* Other than a 40 percent increased risk of hearing loss among Vietnam veterans, the scientists noted few differences in physical health between the two groups -- although the Vietnam vets were almost twice as likely to rate their own health as "poor" or "fair." The detailed examination included tests for endocrine function, immunity and circulation. …

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