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PTSD Symptoms Persist for Thousands of Vietnam Vets

It’s never too late to seek help, experts say

THURSDAY, July 23, 2015 (HealthDay News) — More than a quarter-million Vietnam veterans suffer from posttraumatic 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. The findings were published online July 22 in JAMA Psychiatry.

Charles Marmar, M.D., director of the Steven and Alexandra Cohen Veterans Center at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City, and colleagues followed up with Vietnam veterans who participated in a long-term study starting from 1984 to 1988. Of 1,839 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.

Depending on the measure, the researchers found that between 4.5 and 11.2 percent of men and between 6.1 and 8.7 percent of women are experiencing serious PTSD symptoms. When the authors applied these numbers to the number of veterans who served in Vietnam and are still living, they calculated that approximately 271,000 men and women are suffering from PTSD symptoms. Among all those with PTSD, 36.7 percent also had major depression, and 16.0 percent reported a major increase in symptoms since the earlier interview, compared to 7.6 percent whose symptoms had significantly decreased.

“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 told HealthDay. “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.

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