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Study Reveals Long-Term Effects of Combat-Related PTSD in Vietnam Veterans


Highlights

  • What are the long-term effects of military service in Vietnam, including combat-related post-traumatic stress disorder?
  • We carried out a follow-up study for the 1984-1988 National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study, connecting with 99.7 percent of the cohort members.
  • Key findings included that 11 percent of Vietnam combat veterans still deal with intrusive PTSD-induced nightmares, memories, and anxiety.
The Challenge

The National Vietnam Veterans Longitudinal Study (NVVLS) from 2010-2013 sought to provide important information about the long-term effects of military service in Vietnam, including combat-related post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The NVVLS is a follow-up study of the National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study in 1984-1988. Answering questions about the long-term course of combat-related PTSD and related mental-health disorders had become critically important, not only for Vietnam veterans, but also for a new generation of U.S veterans of conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Approach

The NVVLS includes five major tasks: project management and reporting, the feasibility phase, the start-up phase, the implementation phase, and the close out and final report phase. The primary objective of the feasibility phase was to provide preliminary evidence concerning the likely number of eligible participants who could participate in the follow-up assessment among the 2,348 veterans in the original assessment. The study team located nearly the entire NVVRS cohort and obtained medium to high probability location information for 99.7 percent of the NVVRS cohort members.

The Results

The study provides critical empirical data on scientific and policy questions on which to base policy and treatment decisions. Analyses focused on the course of combat-related PTSD; the relationship of PTSD and its frequent psychiatric co-morbidities with physical health problems; whether particular veteran subgroups are at greater risk for chronicity or severity of PTSD; and the effect of mental-health and other services on the course of PTSD.

Key findings include:

  • 11 percent of Vietnam combat veterans still deal with intrusive PTSD-induced nightmares, memories, and anxiety. About a third suffer from major depression;
  • Vietnam veterans with PTSD had a higher risk for chronic health problems; and
  • Black and Hispanic Vietnam veterans were two to three times more likely than white veterans to develop PTSD

Abt staff authored six peer-reviewed articles about the study and summarized findings at the American Psychological Association Convention in Washington, D.C. USA Today and others reported on the findings.

Focus Areas
Regions
North America