Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Stress is harder on single soldiers


Young and single soldiers have the highest rates of depression and post-traumatic stress disorders, a national survey led by a London psychiatrist has found.
The study also discovered soldiers sent on peacekeeping missions suffer similar rates of post-traumatic stress disorders as combat soldiers.
"A lot of these (peacekeeping) veterans would have been exposed to mortar fire, people shooting at them. They would have similar combat-type events. The difference is they were not able to shoot back," said Don Richardson, a consultant psychiatrist with the Operational Stress Injury Clinic at Parkwood Hospital.
The London clinic, paid for by Veterans Affairs Canada, serves current Canadian soldiers and veterans who have suffered stress injuries during their military service.
Richardson and his fellow researchers surveyed more than 1,000 Canadian peacekeeping veterans who had suffered service-related disabilities. All participants were younger than 65 and had served in the Canadian Armed Forces from 1990 to 1999.
They found one-third of veterans deployed more than once suffered clinical depression. For those deployed once, the rate was 30 per cent.
In the case of post-traumatic stress disorder, an illness that can trigger flashbacks and anxiety attacks, the rate was 11 per cent for soldiers with one deployment and 15 per cent for soldiers who had been on more than one mission.
The higher rates of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder for single soldiers is probably related to a lower level of social support, Richardson said.
"Marital status is a marker of social support. We know those who have less social support are more likely to develop PTSD after traumatic events," Richardson said.
The high rates of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder for soldiers and veterans mean family physicians need to be aware of the situation when they're providing care, said Richardson, also a professor at the Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry.
If a man or woman is complaining of problems sleeping or nightmares, increased irritability or depression, a quick question for a doctor to ask is if they served with the Canadian Forces and if they were deployed, he said.

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