After three years, there are no signs of ill health among regular U.K. military personnel who served in the Iraq War, according to a study published online Tuesday by The Lancet medical journal.
Researchers at King’s College London analyzed questionnaires completed by 10,270 personnel who were deployed to the 2003 Iraq War and personnel who weren’t deployed. The respondents provided information about their health status, including symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, common mental disorders, general well-being, alcohol consumption and fatigue.
Both deployed and non-deployed personnel had similar rates of mental and physical illness. However, deployed reservists did report more symptoms in all health outcomes, apart from alcohol, than reservists who were not deployed to Iraq.
This may be due to deployment-related stresses that may specifically affect reservists, such as family or employers not understanding or supporting a reservist’s role in the military, or being deployed to unfamiliar posts, the authors wrote.
“For regular U.K. service personnel, there is, as yet, no specific health effect of deployment to the 2003 Iraq war … The higher rates of physical and mental illness in the deployed reservists are of concern and have important policy implications. Although support from medical and welfare services in theatre is identical, this is not the case after homecoming,” the authors concluded.
Another study also published in the same issue found no evidence to support a new “Iraq War syndrome” in male U.K. armed forces personnel deployed to the 2003 Iraq War. There had been speculation about an Iraq War syndrome, similar to the Gulf War syndrome observed in veterans of the 1991 Gulf War.
Last week, a report said that few U.S. troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are being directed to treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The Government Accountability Office report found that only about one in five members of the U.S. military, who through a screening program were found to be at risk for PTSD, was referred by government doctors for further help.
Of 9,145 service personnel at risk for PTSD, 22 percent were referred for help. The Army and Air Force each referred 23 percent of personnel at risk, compared with 18 percent for the Navy, and about 15 percent for the Marines, the report found.