Nobody knows the reason why yet, but American troops who have seen combat in Iraq and Afghanistan are suffering far higher rates of post-traumatic stress than their British counterparts, according to a new study. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/17/world/17trauma.html?ref=world
U.S. troops returning to the United States are seeing rates of PTS in the 10 to 15 percent range, while for the British the rate is only 4 percent, notwithstanding the fact that both groups of solidiers have experienced the same amount of combat duty, according to The New York Times Monday.
The newspaper called the new study, whose findings are being reported in the current issue of the journal The Lancet, http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(10)60672-1/abstract, “the most rigorous psychiatric study of Britian’s military so far.”
The next question, of course, is why is there such a difference between the level of post-traumatic stress between the American and British soldiers. As a Harvard psychologist, Richard McNally, is quoted in The Times as saying, “The big mystery is why we find these cross-national differences.”
In the study, U.S. Navy, Air Force and Royal Army members were given mental-health questionnaires to fill out from 2007 to 2009. The results were that one in five soldiers had mental health problems, typically depression or anxiety, and 13 percent drank a lot. But not many cited symptoms for post-traumatic stress syndrome, such as flashbacks.
However, the study did find that reservists reported symptoms of post-traumatic stress more frequently than regular troops.
According to The Times, the researcher who led the study, Dr. Simon Wessely, said that may be why the rate of stress is higher for American soldiers than the British: Reservists account for about 30 percent of the U.S. forces but only 10 percent of the British forces.
Another possible explanation for the higher stress rates for U.S. soldiers is the different ways deployment works in America and Great Britain, according to The Times. American soldiers have tours that last 12 to 15 months, with a year off between tours. The British deploy their troops for six-month tours, with no more than 12 months in every 36 months, The Times reported.
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