Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and the Earnings of Military Reservists

By David S. Loughran; Paul Heaton | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FOUR
How Do Reservists Symptomatic of PTSD Compare with the
Overall Sample Population?

Table 4.1 presents summary statistics describing the average pre- and post-deployment characteristics of our overall sample, along with separate averages for service members symptomatic of PTSD and serving in Iraq, Kuwait, and Afghanistan—deployment locations in which reservists are at an elevated risk of combat.1 Among reservists returning from deployments between June 2003 and December 2006, 8.6 percent are symptomatic of PTSD, with those deployed to Iraq, Kuwait, and Afghanistan having appreciably higher percentages than those deployed to other areas (11.5 percent versus 2.1 percent). Overall, 11 percent of all reservists reported firing their weapon while deployed, but the incidence of weapon use was 35 percent among those ultimately symptomatic of PTSD and 16 percent among those deployed to higher-risk locations.

Table 4.1 indicates that reservists symptomatic of PTSD at the end of their deployment were disadvantaged across several domains, including factors determined prior to deployment. Reservists symptomatic of PTSD earned substantially less than average in both their military and civilian employment. These reservists also exhibited lower educational attainment and scores on the AFQT. The average pre-deployment annual earnings of reservists symptomatic of PTSD were $6,027 less than those of reservists not symptomatic of PTSD, a difference of 17 percent. Reservists symptomatic of PTSD also tended to reside in areas with slightly lower income and higher shares of single-parent families and were drawn disproportionately from the Army and from lower ranks. Prior to deployment, reservists ultimately symptomatic of PTSD reported worse-than-average general health and were considerably more likely to have sought recent treatment for a mental health issue than reservists not symptomatic of PTSD. Following deployment, reservists symptomatic of PTSD also exhibited a relatively high incidence of other health problems, particularly symptoms associated with depression. Overall, the evidence in Table 4.1 strongly suggests that the propensity to experience PTSD symptoms at the end of deployment is correlated with individual characteristics that are established prior to the experience of the trauma that leads to PTSD.

Table 4.1 also demonstrates that reservists deployed to locations that have a higher risk of combat are similar to those deployed to lower-risk locations, although important differences remain. The population of reservists symptomatic of PTSD consists disproportionately of minorities, while the racial distribution of reservists deployed to high-risk locations roughly mirrors that of those deployed to lower-risk locations. Educational attainment is slightly lower

1 The period of deployment for some of those in our sample includes the initial ground invasion of Iraq (March 2003); therefore, many service members who reported deployments to Kuwait also saw service in Iraq.

-15-

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