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PTSD Symptoms Persist for Thousands of Vietnam Vets, Study Finds

WEDNESDAY, July 22, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- More than a quarter-million Vietnam veterans suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms today, four decades after the war's end, a new study estimates. And at least one-third of them have major depression as well.

"It's been known for thousands of years that serving in war is a hardship, that readjusting to civilian life is a hardship, and that there is a kind of moral injury involved in the duty of being asked to kill others to defend your country," said lead author Dr. Charles Marmar, director of the Steven and Alexandra Cohen Veterans Center at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City.

"For some veterans, as they become older, they may become more vulnerable to experiencing PTSD symptoms or might have an increase in their symptoms as their health declines, particularly their neurological health," Marmar said. "But it's never too late to get treatment."

Even for veterans in their 70s and 80s, a combination of psychotherapy, medication, and marital and family therapy can reduce PTSD symptoms, including insomnia, anxiety and irritability, he said.

The Vietnam War ended in 1975. But despite changing times, changing technology and changing attitudes towards war, "in every study, we can estimate roughly 20 to 30 percent of war veterans are vulnerable, and we expect the same from Iraq and Afghanistan," Marmar said.

Marmar and colleagues followed up with Vietnam veterans who participated in a long-term study starting from 1984 to 1988. Of more than 1,800 still alive for this study, 1,450 participated in at least one phase of the new three-part study. The phases included a health questionnaire, health interview and clinical interview.

The findings were published online July 22 in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.

Read the full article here.