Friday, May 22, 2009

ARMY TIMES ARTICLE: New study documents illness in Gulf War vets

By Kelly Kennedy - Staff writer
Posted : Friday May 22, 2009 12:13:19 EDT, The Army Times

A study funded by the Veterans Affairs and Defense departments found that Gulf War veterans have “significantly higher rates” of unexplained multi-symptom illness than veterans who did not deploy.

“Fourteen years after deployment, 1991 Gulf War veterans continue to report a higher prevalence of many adverse health outcomes, both physical and mental, compared with Gulf era veterans,” wrote lead author Han K. Kang of VA’s Environmental Epidemiology Service.

The survey compared Gulf War veterans to veterans of the same era who did not deploy to the Middle East. Researchers also found deployed veterans had been diagnosed with higher rates of chronic fatigue syndrome-like illness, post-traumatic stress disorder, functional impairment, health care use, and mental health disorders.

The study is important because few longitudinal surveys have been conducted to determine how many veterans are still sick or have become sick since they deployed in 1991.

The study found that twice as many vets who deployed stayed in bed or at home because they did not feel well within the two weeks prior to the study. And 29 percent of vets who deployed said their health affected their ability to work, compared to 19 percent of those who didn’t deploy.

Of 23 conditions listed in the study, veterans who deployed had significantly higher rates in all but three: skin cancer, “other cancer” and diabetes. They had significantly higher rates of all seven mental health disorders, including PTSD, depression and substance abuse disorder.

“Deployed veterans reported almost two times more functional impairment, a 50 percent higher rate of health-related activity limitation, and more clinic, doctors’ office visits, and inpatient hospital health care than the Gulf Era veterans,” Kang wrote. “Military service in the 1991 Gulf War appears to be continuing to affect the health status of veterans, which may impact future use of physical and mental health care services.”

Researchers also found that 25 percent more vets who deployed than those who didn’t reported that they had been diagnosed with multi-symptom illness, and three-fourths had first experienced it by 1995.

“Veterans with MSI had significantly poorer physical health and mental health summary scores, more clinic visits and hospitalizations,” the study states.

Researchers surveyed 9,970 veterans, 6,111 of whom had deployed. The results appeared in the April edition of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

Researchers worked from the 1995 National Health Survey of Gulf War Era Veterans and Their Families, which consists of 15,000 deployed troops and 15,000 troops who did not deploy.

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