Read Full Report

Date:  Nov. 14, 2007

Contacts:  Christine Stencel, Senior Media Relations Officer

Alison Burnette, Media Relations Assistant

Office of News and Public Information

202-334-2138; e-mail <>




Military Personnel Who Serve in War Zones Face Increased Risk for Alcohol Abuse, Anxiety Disorders, Depression, and Marital and Family Conflict, IOM Report Confirms


WASHINGTON -- Military service in a war zone increases service members' chances of developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), other anxiety disorders, and depression, says a new report from the Institute of Medicine.  Serving in a war also increases the chances of alcohol abuse, accidental death, and suicide within the first few years after leaving the war zone, and marital and family conflict, including domestic violence, said the committee that wrote the report at the request of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which asked for a comprehensive analysis of the scientific and medical evidence concerning associations between deployment-related stress and long-term, adverse effects on health. 


Drug abuse, incarceration, unexplained illnesses, chronic fatigue syndrome, gastrointestinal symptoms, skin diseases, fibromyalgia, and chronic pain may also be associated with the stresses of being in a war, but the evidence to support these links is weaker.  For other health problems and adverse effects that the committee reviewed, the data are lacking or contradictory; the committee could not determine whether links between these ailments and deployment-related stress exist.


Although the report cannot offer definitive answers about the connections between many health problems and the stresses of war, it is clear that veterans who were deployed to war zones self-report more medical conditions and poorer health than veterans who were not deployed.  Those who were deployed and have PTSD in particular tend to report more symptoms and poorer health, the committee found.  PTSD often occurs in conjunction with other anxiety disorders, depression, and substance abuse; its prevalence and severity is associated with increased exposure to combat. 


A persistent obstacle to obtaining better evidence that would yield clearer answers is lack of pre- and post-deployment screenings of physical, mental, and emotional status.  The U.S. Department of Defense should conduct comprehensive, standardized evaluations of service members' medical conditions, psychiatric symptoms and diagnoses, and psychosocial status and trauma history before and after they deploy to war zones.  Such screenings would provide baseline data for comparisons and information to determine the long-term consequences of deployment-related stress.  In addition, they would help identify at-risk personnel who might benefit from targeted intervention programs during deployment -- such as marital counseling or therapy for psychiatric or other disorders -- and help DOD and VA choose which intervention programs to implement for veterans adjusting to post-deployment life.


[ This news release and report are available at ]


Board on Population Health and Public Health Practice


Committee on Gulf War and Health: Physiologic, Psychologic, and
Psychosocial Effects of Deployment-Related Stress


Richard Mayeux, M.D. (chair)


Sergievsky Center, and


Taub Institute

College of Physicians and Surgeons

Columbia University

New York City


Kathryn Karusaitis Basham, Ph.D.

Professor and Chair of Human Behavior in the Social Environment Sequence

School for Social Work

Smith College

Northampton, Mass.


Evelyn J. Bromet, Ph.D.


Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science

State University of New York

Stony Brook


Gregory L. Burke, M.D.

Professor and Chair

Department of Public Health Sciences

School of Medicine

Wake Forest University

Winston-Salem, N.C.


Dennis S. Charney, M.D.

Dean for Academic and Scientific Affairs, and

Anne and Joel Ehrenkranz Professor

Departments of Psychiatry, Pharmacology and Biological Chemistry, and Neuroscience

Mount Sinai School of Medicine; and

Senior Vice President for Health Sciences

Mount Sinai Medical Center

New York City


Michael Davis, Ph.D.

Robert W. Woodruff Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

School of Medicine

Emory University



Douglas A. Drossman, M.D.


  Center for Functional GI and Motility

  Disorders, and

  Professor of Medicine and Psychiatry

  Division of Gastroenterology and


  School of Medicine

  University of North Carolina
Chapel Hill


Dwight L. Evans, M.D.

Ruth Meltzer Professor and Chair

Department of Psychiatry

School of Medicine

University of Pennsylvania



Vincent J. Felitti, M.D.


Department of Preventive Medicine

Southern California Permanente Medical Group

San Diego


Janice L. Krupnick, Ph.D.

Professor and Psychologist

Department of Psychiatry

Georgetown University

Washington, D.C.


William B. Malarkey, M.D.

Professor of Internal Medicine, Medical Biochemistry, Molecular Virology, Immunology, Medical Genetics, and Psychiatry;


Clinical Research Center; and

Associate Director

Center for Stress and Wound Healing

Ohio State University



Bruce S. McEwen, Ph.D.

Alfred E. Mirsky Professor and Head

Harold and Margaret Milliken Hatch Laboratory of Neuroendocrinology

Rockefeller University

New York City


Thomas G. Pickering, M.D. Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Medicine

Department of Medicine

College of Physicians and Surgeons

Columbia University

New York City


Jerrold F. Rosenbaum, M.D.

Stanley Cobb Professor of Psychiatry

Harvard Medical School; and


Department of Psychiatry

Massachusetts General Hospital



Bernard Timothy Walsh, M.D.

William and Joy Ruane Professor of Pediatric Psychopharmacology

College of Physicians and Surgeons

Columbia University; and


Eating Disorders Research Unit

New York State Psychiatric Institute

New York City




  Roberta Wedge, M.S.

  Study Director