Two Studies Link Posttraumatic Stress Disorder to Physical Health Problems

Two new studies have made connections between posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and a variety of serious health consequences. A study published this month in the Archives of General Psychiatry has found an association between posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and coronary heart disease (CHD). The second study, published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, documented a rise in somatic symptoms, health-care visits, and work absenteeism among Iraq War veterans with PTSD.

The first study, led by Dr. Laura D. Kubzansky of the Harvard School of Public Health, is the first of its kind to suggest that high levels of PTSD symptoms may increase the risks of heart attack and arterial damage. It was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Researchers examined data from the Veterans Affairs Normative Aging Study and tracked 1,946 male veterans of World War II and the Korean War. With every increase in PTSD symptom level, the men were found to have a roughly 20 to 25 percent higher risk of developing heart disease. The authors believe that the hormonal imbalances caused by PTSD, including the increase in adrenaline, may be responsible for the elevated cardiovascular risks.

The second study was funded by the U.S. Army and is based on a survey of 2,863 soldiers coming one year after combat in Iraq. A previous VA study last year found that more than a third of 23,635 women veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan evaluated from 2002 through August of 2005 had a preliminary diagnosis of a mental disorder.

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