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Health worsens after deployment, troops say


By Kelly Kennedy - Staff writer
Posted : Monday Jul 28, 2008

Three months after they return home from Iraq or Afghanistan, service members are reporting their overall health as “fair” or “poor” — as opposed to “good,” “very good” or “excellent” — at much higher rates than when they first return home.

One out of 40 troops, or 2.5 percent, rated their health as “fair” or “poor” immediately after returning home, but three to six months later, the number shot up to one out of seven, more than 14 percent.

The Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center compared results from pre-deployment assessment forms that are filled out just before service members head to Iraq or Afghanistan with post-deployment assessment forms that are filled out just after they return home, and then with post-deployment reassessment forms, which are filled out three to six months later.

“From pre-deployment to post-deployment to post-deployment reassessments, there were sharp increases in the proportions of deployers who rated their health as ‘fair’ or ‘poor,’ ” states a report in Military Surveillance Monthly. “This is not surprising because deployments are inherently physically and psychologically demanding.”

However, researchers called the jump in “poor” health assessments months after returning home “not intuitively understandable,” though they noted that symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder can emerge or worsen several months after the stressor that caused the disorder. Physical problems also have been linked to PTSD.

The rate generally has increased since September 2007, according to the report. Active-duty, National Guard and reserve troops continue to report more mental-health concerns and exposure issues. About 5 percent of Army Reserve soldiers reported mental health concerns immediately after they returned home, but six months later, that more than doubled to 12 percent.

“Commanders, supervisors, family members, peers and providers of health care to redeployed service members should be alert to emerging or worsening symptoms of physical and psychological problems for several months, at least, after returning from deployment,” researchers recommended in the report.


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