How do the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan affect the Surviving Soldiers?

Since Vietnam war, the Afghanistan and Iraq wars are the longest ever battle operations. A lot of stressors confront these Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF) troops. OEF/OIF service members are at danger for death or severe injury. They may see others hurt or executed. In fact, they might have needed to slaughter or wound others. As a result, they are subjected to dangers. These and different components have the potentials to expand the possibilities of having PTSD or other psychological problems.

Several members of service have been far away from home for long stretches of time and these issues can bring problems at home or work. Also, these issues can add to the anxiety as well. Besides, these problems are severe for National Guard and Reserve troops who had not anticipated that they would be away for so long. Half of the individuals who have served in the present wars have been Guard and Reservists.

There is another persisting stress problem that occurred in Iraq and Afghanistan is military sexual trauma (MST). This is rape or recurring, devastating inappropriate sexual behavior that happens in the military. It can happen to men and ladies. MST can also happen during peacetime, training period, or war.

One early study looked at the mental health of service members in Afghanistan and Iraq. The study asked Soldiers and Marines about war-zone experiences and about their symptoms of distress. Soldiers and Marines in Iraq reported more combat stressors than Soldiers in Afghanistan. This table describes the kinds of stressors faced in each combat theatre in 2003.

A research has been conducted on the emotional well-being of service members in Afghanistan and Iraq. It revealed some information about war-zone experiences and the side effects of distress. More soldiers, officers and marines in Iraq war reported about stress than in Afghanistan war. The below table portrays the kinds of stressors confronted in every battle in 2003 –

Combat Stressors Seeing dead bodies Being shot at Being attacked/ ambushed Receiving rocket or mortar fire Know someone killed/ seriously injured
Iraq Army 95% 93% 89% 86% 86%
Iraq Marines 94% 97% 95% 92% 87%
Afghanistan Army 39% 66% 58% 84% 43%

Source: http://www.ptsd.va.gov/

The soldiers and marines served in Iraq war suffered from more combat stressors and mental health problems than those who served in Afghanistan. The rate of having PSTD is higher for the soldiers in Iraq than Afghanistan. A later research confirmed these findings with evidence.

What causes the risk of PTSD in OEF/OIF service members?

Some research studies have revealed that specific factors make it more likely that OEF/OIF service members will develop PTSD. These factors include:

  • Long deployment time
  • Severe combat exposure, such as Deployment to “forward” areas close to the enemy and watching others wounded or killed
  • Severe physical injury and Traumatic brain injury
  • Lower rank and Lower level of schooling
  • Low morale and poor social support within the unit
  • Not being married and having Family problems
  • Member of the National Guard or Reserves
  • Prior trauma exposure
  • Hispanic ethnic group

What are the probable outcomes?

A research on OEF/OIF Veterans recommends that 10% to 18% of OEF/OIF troops are vulnerable to have PTSD after the war. Also, the PTSD, OEF/OIF service members are at a greater level of danger for other mental problems. In spite of the fact that studies differ generally as far as systems utilized, approximations of depression in returning troops vary from 3% to 25%. An excessive level of drinking and use of tobacco among OEF/OIF Veterans might be hazardous. They additionally report worries over differences with others.

Apart from this research, several other research studies have revealed how the reaction to war stressors changes after some time. The PTSD signs will probably appear in returning OEF/OIF service members after a while. Utilizing a brief PTSD screen, they were evaluated at their arrival and an again six months later. They will probably have a positive screen and they have demonstrated more PTSD side effects – at a later time. Now, a lot of service members who were screened positive with PSTD in the initial showed that the side effects will be reduced after six months. As a whole, it must be noted that almost all the returning members evaluated negatively for PSTD at both times.