A joint study conducted by the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs and Stanford University found that veterans with a mental health condition – especially posttraumatic stress disorder – tend to suffer from physical ailments, as well.
The study, conducted on the newest generation of veterans enrolled with the VA, is no surprise to researchers, who have known for years that there is a strong link between mental wellbeing and physical wellbeing.
“We need to ensure that veterans receive ample physical and emotional care,” said James G. Fausone, a lawyer who works for Legal Help For Veterans, PLLC. “The VA has been treating mental and physical injuries for a long time, but it needs to understand the link between the two when caring for veterans.”
The records of more than 90,000 Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans who used VA outpatient care in fiscal year 2006-2007 were involved in the study, the majority of whom had a diagnosed mental condition.
The study found that the link between PTSD and physical injuries was stronger among women than men. Women with PTSD had a median of seven medical conditions, while men had a median of five. Women without a mental health condition had a median of 4.5 medical conditions, while men without a mental health condition had four.
“Posttraumatic stress disorder is a very serious problem that veterans need to be aware of and the VA needs to examine,” Fausone said. “This study did not find that PTSD causes physical conditions or vice versa, but it did find that there is a link between the two. All veterans who suffered from minor to major physical injuries should be carefully screened for PTSD and treated appropriately.”
Susan Frayne, MD, MPH, with the VA Palo Alto Health Care System and Stanford University and the lead author of the study, suggested what the findings could mean.
She said that PTSD could increase the risk of medical conditions. “One way this could happen is that PTSD can cause changes in the neuroendocrine system in the body, which might affect other biological processes,” she said in a VA article.
She said another possibility is that “PTSD itself does not cause medical conditions, but that whatever caused the PTSD also simultaneously caused the medical condition.” A roadside bomb that injures a solider, for example, could simultaneously cause PTSD and a medical condition.
To learn more or to contact a Veterans disability lawyer or Veterans attorney call 1.800.693.4800 or visit http://www.legalhelpforveterans.com.