Nov. 13, 2007 -- New research shows that the number of Iraq war veterans reporting mental health concerns spikes three to six months after returning home from deployment in Iraq.
The findings highlight "the need to enhance military mental health care during this period," write the researchers.
Data came from two Department of Defense surveys completed by 88,200 soldiers, reservists, and members of the National Guard who had served in Iraq.
Participants completed the first survey immediately after returning home from Iraq and the second survey three to six months after coming home.
Together, those surveys show that one in five active-duty soldiers and 42% of reservists or National Guard members needed or were getting mental health treatment.
Soldiers' Mental Health
Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), interpersonal conflicts, and alcohol problems stood out in the study.
The percentage of active-duty soldiers reporting at least three symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) rose from 6% in the first survey to 9% in the second survey.
Almost 7% of reservists and National Guard members reported at least three PTSD symptoms in the first survey, compared with about 14% in the second survey.
While PTSD rates were higher in the second survey, PTSD symptoms had improved by then for roughly half of participants who reported PTSD in the first survey.
Relationships were a rocky spot for many returning Iraq war veterans. Four times as many participants reported interpersonal conflicts in the second survey than in the first survey.
Alcohol was another common issue.
"Soldiers frequently reported alcohol but very few were referred to alcohol treatment," write the researchers.
They included Charles Milliken, MD, of the psychiatry and neuroscience division at the Walter Read Army Institute of Research in Silver Spring, Md.