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October 31, 2009

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UK vets face alcohol abuse, depression

ALCOHOL abuse and depression are common among British troops returning from conflict deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, but post traumatic stress is less of a problem than previously thought, researchers said yesterday.

A study by British psychiatrists found that more than 27 percent of troops suffer post deployment mental health problems, but only around 5 percent have post traumatic stress disorder - a debilitating illness that can be caused by wartime trauma.

There was little difference in levels of post traumatic stress symptoms between British and US troops deployed to Iraq.

Amy Iversen of the King's Centre for military health research at the Institute of Psychiatry in London, who led the study, said the research should help health planners and policy makers focus more realistically on the problems facing war vets.

"Alcohol misuse and depressive disorders are much more common and therefore should be the primary focus for education, prevention and intervention," she wrote in the study.

Senior British military figures have accused the government of failing to provide enough care for soldiers suffering mental trauma after fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Around 170,000 British troops have been deployed since 2001.

"Although our perception is that post traumatic stress disorder symptoms are the main source of psychiatric illness in service personnel," Iverson said, "alcohol misuse and depressive disorders are actually much more common."

The study, published in the journal BioMed Central Psychiatry, analyzed 821 military personnel to see how many suffered mental illness and post traumatic stress.

An earlier study, published in March, showed that young British men who have left the military are up to three times more likely to kill themselves than people in the general population.


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