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Iowa City IA 52242
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UI study finds Gulf War vets have higher rate of illness than other military
personnel; cognitive problems are more than double that of veterans who served
outside the Gulf
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- A University of Iowa study finds that military personnel
who served in the Persian Gulf War have a greater prevalence of self-reported
medical and psychiatric conditions than those serving elsewhere in the military
during the same time, according to an article in the Jan. 15 issue of The
Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
Researchers in the Iowa Persian Gulf War Study developed a telephone survey
to study a random sample of military personnel who listed Iowa as home. Their
task was to determine the frequency and type of health complaints reported
by veterans serving in the Gulf War region and to compare these rates of illnesses
with those military personnel serving outside the Gulf War region.
Dr. David A. Schwartz, professor of internal medicine in the UI College of
Medicine and the group's principal investigator, released the survey findings
of 3,696 subjects at a news conference today in Washington, D.C.
"Compared with non-Persian Gulf War military personnel, Persian Gulf
War military personnel reported an 11 percent higher prevalence of symptoms
of cognitive dysfunction; a nine percent higher prevalence of symptoms of
fibromyalgia; a six percent higher prevalence of symptoms of depression; a
three percent higher prevalence of symptoms of anxiety disorder; a two percent
higher prevalence of symptoms of alcohol abuse, bronchitis and asthma; a one
percent increase in post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic fatigue; and
an increase in the prevalence of sexual discomfort in both the respondent
and the female partner of the respondent," Schwartz said.
A total of 14.7 percent of Persian Gulf War military personnel versus 6.6
percent of non-Persian Gulf War military personnel had symptoms of two or
more medical and psychiatric conditions.
Persian Gulf War interviewees were asked about known exposures during the
war. The researchers found that most of the self-reported Persian Gulf War
exposures are significantly related to many of the medical and psychiatric
They also found that being involved in the Persian Gulf War significantly
affected the self-reported assessment of quality of life and functional health.
For instance, Persian Gulf War veterans reported significantly lower measures
of social functioning, mental health and physical functioning. In fact, among
Persian Gulf War military personnel, the self-reported medical and psychiatric
conditions were significantly related to interference with social activities
and self-reports of decreased performance at work. These findings suggest
that the Persian Gulf conflict and the medical conditions reported by the
Persian Gulf military personnel substantially impair their daily activities.
Finally, among Persian Gulf War veterans, researchers found relatively few
differences between the frequency of medical and psychiatric conditions reported
by the national guard and reservists versus those reported by regular military.
The national guard and reserve study group reported only a one percent increase
in the prevalence of symptoms of chronic fatigue and a four percent increase
in symptoms of alcohol abuse. These findings suggest that their results apply
to all military personnel involved in the Persian Gulf conflict, regardless
of the type of military service.
The researchers say that the most important limitation to the research is
that the medical and psychiatric conditions as well as the exposure data are
based exclusively in self-reported information and have not been fully characterized
by objective physical examination or laboratory findings.
The UI researchers conducted the study in cooperation with the Iowa Department
of Public Health and the federal Centers for Disease Control.