- The Washington Times - Monday, March 12, 2007

CHICAGO (Agence France-Presse) — A quarter of the Afghanistan and Iraq war veterans treated with government-funded health care have been diagnosed with a mental disorder, a study published yesterday found.

When psychosocial disorders such as domestic violence were included, the number of war veterans suffering from mental illnesses rose to 31 percent.

The instances of mental illness among recently discharged troops and members of the National Guard are significantly higher than those of a study published last year that examined active-duty troops, the lead researcher said.

That study found that although a third of returning troops were accessing mental health services, only 12 percent were diagnosed with a mental illness or psychosocial disorder.

“That’s a big difference,” said Karen Seal, a physician and researcher at the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

Of significant concern was the finding that 56 percent of those diagnosed had more than one mental illness, Dr. Seal said.

“When people have more than one diagnosis they become more challenging to diagnose and, more importantly, we believe are more challenging to treat,” she said.

The most common diagnosis was post-traumatic stress disorder at 13 percent of troops, followed by anxiety disorder, adjustment disorder, depression and substance abuse.

“The majority of military personnel experience high intensity guerrilla warfare and the chronic threat of roadside bombs and improvised explosive devices,” the authors wrote.

“Some soldiers endure multiple tours of duty, many experience traumatic injury, and more of the wounded survive than ever before.”

Dr. Seal and her colleagues examined the records of 103,788 veterans of these operations who were first seen at Veterans Affairs facilities between Sept. 30, 2001, and Sept. 30, 2005.

About 29 percent of war veterans accessed VA health care facilities, the study found.

The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association’s Archives of Internal Medicine.

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