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Study Revisits PTSD in Vietnam Veterans
Study revisits stress disorder in Vietnam veterans; Fewer may have been victims

WASHINGTON, Aug. 17, 2006

(AP) A widely quoted estimate that almost one in three Vietnam veterans developed post-traumatic stress disorder was too high, says a re-analysis that puts the toll closer to one in five.

Post-traumatic stress disorder now is understood to be triggered by a variety of traumatic experiences, not just combat, but medical authorities first accepted it as a psychiatric condition in 1980 at the urging of Vietnam veterans.

Then came the controversy over its prevalence. In the late 1980s, two government-funded studies issued vastly different estimates.

A study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggested that 14.7 percent of veterans developed the disorder after serving in Vietnam and that 2.2 percent still had it at that time.

A second, the National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study, estimated that 30.9 percent of the veterans had developed the disorder and 15.2 percent of them were suffering it over a decade after the war.

Columbia University scientists took another look at that second study, using more precise symptom definitions, among other things. Their work, reported in Friday's edition of the journal Science, showed that 18.7 percent of Vietnam veterans had developed the disorder and 9.1 percent were suffering it by the end of the 1980s.

Whatever the actual numbers, the researchers said it is clear that the more combat exposure for a veteran, the greater the likelihood of the disorder.

Today, veterans from the Iraq war are supposed to be screened for the disorder and other mental health problems. Studies published this year suggest that between 11 percent and 17 percent of those soldiers have had symptoms of post-traumatic stress upon their return.