People in the military who experience trauma, including sexual trauma, have an increased risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), major depressive disorder, and conditions such as fibromyalgia and chronic pain, according to researchers.
Their findings were reported in a study presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Psychiatric Association held May 5-9 in New York City. The poster was titled “Increased Prevalence of MDD, PTSD, and Medical Conditions With Military Sexual Trauma.”
A study published in 2017 found that about 57% of female veterans had clinical manifestations consistent with fibromyalgia, suggesting that these women are at risk for developing generalized chronic pain.
Also, fibromyalgia in women veterans was found to be associated with psychological symptoms of stress, depression, and PTSD, although only 14% of the study participants had been deployed.
In the latest study, a research team led by Gen Shinozaki, MD, associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Iowa, took a closer look at potential associations between physical or psychological trauma within the military and various health conditions.
The team conducted computer-assisted telephone interviews with 201 male and 187 female service members who were recruited at the Iowa City Veteran’s Affairs Medical Center. Of the 388 veterans interviewed, 63 of them (58 were women) reported they were victims of attempted or completed sexual assault.
As the American Psychiatric Association announced in a news release, the researchers found that chronic illnesses such as diabetes, fibromyalgia, fatigue, or chronic pain were more frequent among men with a history of military trauma. But this finding was based on limited medical data.
Depression was found to be significantly associated with a history of military trauma and negative childhood experiences in both male and female veterans.
However, PTSD was found to be linked to a history of military trauma and adverse childhood experiences, but also to a history of sexual trauma in women veterans. Among male veterans, PTSD was only associated with military trauma.
This study adds additional evidence that veterans are at a greater risk of depression and PTSD, but also of developing chronic diseases such as fibromyalgia.
At least in part, these medical conditions are linked to psychological and sexual traumas, which veterans are exposed to.
Additional studies are needed to further address the health risks that military men and women are exposed to and must deal with during and after their time in the service.