Although the suicide rate in the U.S. Army has traditionally been below age-gender matched civilian rates, it has climbed steadily since the beginning of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts and since 2008 has exceeded the demographically matched civilian rate. The Army Study to Assess Risk and Resilience in Servicemembers (Army STARRS) is a multicomponent epidemiological and neurobiological study designed to generate actionable evidence-based recommendations to reduce Army suicides and increase knowledge about risk and resilience factors for suicidality and its psychopathological correlates. This paper presents an overview of the Army STARRS component study designs and of recent findings.
Army STARRS includes six main component studies: (1) the Historical Administrative Data Study (HADS) of Army and Department of Defense (DoD) administrative data systems (including records of suicidal behaviors) for all soldiers on active duty 2004–2009 aimed at finding administrative record predictors of suicides; (2) retrospective case-control studies of fatal and nonfatal suicidal behaviors (each planned to have n = 150 cases and n = 300 controls); (3) a study of new soldiers (n = 50,765 completed surveys) assessed just before beginning basic combat training (BCT) with self-administered questionnaires (SAQ), neurocognitive tests, and blood samples; (4) a cross-sectional study of approximately 35,000 (completed SAQs) soldiers representative of all other (i.e., exclusive of BCT) active duty soldiers; (5) a pre-post deployment study (with blood samples) of soldiers in brigade combat teams about to deploy to Afghanistan (n = 9,421 completed baseline surveys), with sub-samples assessed again one, three, and nine months after returning from deployment; and (6) a pilot study to follow-up SAQ respondents transitioning to civilian life. Army/DoD administrative data are being linked prospectively to the large-scale survey samples to examine predictors of subsequent suicidality and related mental health outcomes.
Main outcome measures
Measures (self-report and administratively recorded) of suicidal behaviors and their psychopathological correlates.
Component study cooperation rates are comparatively high. Sample biases are relatively small. Inefficiencies introduced into parameter estimates by using nonresponse adjustment weights and time-space clustering are small. Initial findings show that the suicide death rate, which rose over 2004–2009, increased for those deployed, those never deployed, and those previously deployed. Analyses of administrative records show that those deployed or previously deployed were at greater suicide risk. Receiving a waiver to enter the Army was not associated with increased risk. However, being demoted in the past two years was associated with increased risk. Time in current deployment, length of time since return from most recent deployment, total number of deployments, and time interval between most recent deployments (known as dwell time) were not associated with suicide risk. Initial analyses of survey data show that 13.9% of currently active non-deployed regular Army soldiers considered suicide at some point in their lifetime, while 5.3% had made a suicide plan, and 2.4% had attempted suicide. Importantly, 47–60% of these outcomes first occurred prior to enlistment. Prior mental disorders, in particular major depression and intermittent explosive disorder, were the strongest predictors of these self-reported suicidal behaviors. Most onsets of plans-attempts among ideators (58.3–63.3%) occurred within the year of onset of ideation. About 25.1% of non-deployed U.S. Army personnel met 30-day criteria for a DSM-IV anxiety, mood, disruptive behavior, or substance disorder (15.0% an internalizing disorder; 18.4% an externalizing disorder) and 11.1% for multiple disorders. Importantly, three-fourths of these disorders had pre-enlistment onsets.
Integration across component studies creates strengths going well beyond those in conventional applications of the same individual study designs. These design features create a strong methodological foundation from which Army STARRS can pursue its substantive research goals. The early findings reported here illustrate the importance of the study and its approach as a model of studying rare events particularly of national security concern. Continuing analyses of the data will inform suicide prevention for the U.S. Army.
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is increasingly recognized as a risk factor for deleterious mental health and functional outcomes. The purpose of this study was to examine the strength and specificity of the association between deployment-acquired TBI and subsequent posttraumatic stress and related disorders among U.S. Army personnel.
A prospective, longitudinal survey of soldiers in three Brigade Combat Teams was conducted 1–2 months prior to an average 10-month deployment to Afghanistan (T0), upon redeployment to the United States (T1), approximately 3 months later (T2), and approximately 9 months later (T3). Outcomes of interest were 30-day prevalence postdeployment of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), major depressive episode, generalized anxiety disorder, and suicidality, as well as presence and severity of postdeployment PTSD symptoms.
Complete information was available for 4,645 soldiers. Approximately one in five soldiers reported exposure to mild (18.0%) or more-than-mild (1.2%) TBI(s) during the index deployment. Even after adjusting for other risk factors (e.g., predeployment mental health status, severity of deployment stress, prior TBI history), deployment-acquired TBI was associated with elevated adjusted odds of PTSD and generalized anxiety disorder at T2 and T3 and of major depressive episode at T2. Suicidality risk at T2 appeared similarly elevated, but this association did not reach statistical significance.
The findings highlight the importance of surveillance efforts to identify soldiers who have sustained TBIs and are therefore at risk for an array of postdeployment adverse mental health outcomes, including but not limited to PTSD. The mechanism(s) accounting for these associations need to be elucidated to inform development of effective preventive and early intervention programs.
The Army Study to Assess Risk and Resilience in Servicemembers (Army STARRS) is a multicomponent study designed to generate actionable recommendations to reduce Army suicides and increase knowledge of risk and resilience factors for suicidality.
To present data on prevalence, trends, and basic sociodemographic and Army experience correlates of suicides and accident deaths among active duty Regular Army soldiers between January 1, 2004, and December 31, 2009, and thereby establish a foundation for future Army STARRS investigations.
DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS
Analysis of trends and predictors of suicide and accident deaths using Army and Department of Defense administrative data systems. Participants were all members of the US Regular Army serving at any time between 2004 and 2009.
MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES
Death by suicide or accident during active Army service.
The suicide rate rose between 2004 and 2009 among never deployed and currently and previously deployed Regular Army soldiers. The accident death rate fell sharply among currently deployed soldiers, remained constant among the previously deployed, and trended upward among the never deployed. Increased suicide risk was associated with being a man (or a woman during deployment), white race/ethnicity, junior enlisted rank, recent demotion, and current or previous deployment. Sociodemographic and Army experience predictors were generally similar for suicides and accident deaths. Time trends in these predictors and in the Army’s increased use of accession waivers (which relaxed some qualifications for new soldiers) do not explain the rise in Army suicides.
CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE
Predictors of Army suicides were largely similar to those reported elsewhere for civilians, although some predictors distinct to Army service emerged that deserve more in-depth analysis. The existence of a time trend in suicide risk among never-deployed soldiers argues indirectly against the view that exposure to combat-related trauma is the exclusive cause of the increase in Army suicides.
The U.S. Army suicide attempt rate increased sharply during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Comprehensive research on this important health outcome has been hampered by a lack of integration among Army administrative data systems.
To identify risk factors for Regular Army suicide attempts during the years 2004–2009 using data from the Army Study to Assess Risk and Resilience in Servicemembers (Army STARRS).
Design, Setting, and Participants
There were 9,791 medically documented suicide attempts among Regular Army soldiers during the study period. Individual-level person-month records from Army and Department of Defense administrative data systems were analyzed to identify socio-demographic, service-related, and mental health risk factors distinguishing suicide attempt cases from an equal-probability control sample of 183,826 person-months.
Main Outcome and Measures
Suicide attempts were identified using Department of Defense Suicide Event Report records and ICD-9 E95x diagnostic codes. Predictor variables were constructed from Army personnel and medical records.
Enlisted soldiers accounted for 98.6% of all suicide attempts, with an overall rate of 377/100,000 person-years, versus 27.9/100,000 person-years for officers. Significant multivariate predictors among enlisted soldiers included socio-demographic characteristics (female gender, older age at Army entry, younger current age, low education, non-hispanic white), short length of service, never or previously deployed, and the presence and recency of mental health diagnoses. Among officers, only socio-demographic characteristics (female gender, older age at Army entry, younger current age, and low education) and the presence and recency of mental health diagnoses were significant.
Conclusions and Relevance
Results represent the most comprehensive accounting of U.S. Army suicide attempts to date and reveal unique risk profiles for enlisted soldiers and officers, and highlighting the importance of focusing research and prevention efforts on enlisted soldiers in their first tour of duty.
The Army Study to Assess Risk and Resilience in Servicemembers (Army STARRS) is a multi-component epidemiological and neurobiological study designed to generate actionable evidence-based recommendations to reduce U.S. Army suicides and increase basic knowledge about the determinants of suicidality. This report presents an overview of the designs of the six component Army STARRS studies. These include: an integrated study of historical administrative data systems (HADS) designed to provide data on significant administrative predictors of suicides among the more than 1.6 million soldiers on active duty in 2004–2009; retrospective case-control studies of suicide attempts and fatalities; separate large-scale cross-sectional studies of new soldiers (i.e., those just beginning Basic Combat Training [BCT], who completed self-administered questionnaires [SAQ] and neurocognitive tests and provided blood samples) and soldiers exclusive of those in BCT (who completed SAQs); a pre-post deployment study of soldiers in three Brigade Combat Teams about to deploy to Afghanistan (who completed SAQs and provided blood samples) followed multiple times after returning from deployment; and a platform for following up Army STARRS participants who have returned to civilian life. DoD/Army administrative data records are linked with SAQ data to examine prospective associations between self-reports and subsequent suicidality. The presentation closes with a discussion of the methodological advantages of cross-component coordination.
Suicide; mental disorders; U.S. Army; epidemiologic research design; design effects; sample bias; sample weights; survey design efficiency; survey sampling
Centralized HIV program oversight and repeal of the Department of Defense policy “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” permitted characterization of HIV transmission among soldiers assigned to a large US Army base continental United States from 2012 to 2013. An investigation of a greater than expected number of new HIV infections among soldiers was initiated to characterize transmission and identify opportunities to disrupt transmission and deliver services.
All soldiers who were assigned to the base at the time of their first positive HIV test and who had their first positive HIV test in 2012 or in the first 6 months of 2013 and who had a clinical genotype available for analysis were eligible for inclusion in the investigation.
All patients (n = 19) were men; most were black (52%) and less than 30 years old (64%). Fifteen of the 19 patients participated in in-depth interviews. Eighty percent were men who have sex with men who reported multiple sex partners having met through social and electronic networks. All were subtype B infections. Significant knowledge gaps and barriers to accessing testing and care in the military healthcare system were identified. Most (58%) belonged to transmission networks involving other soldiers.
This investigation represents an important step forward in on-going efforts to develop a comprehensive understanding of transmission networks in the Army that can inform delivery of best practices combination prevention services. The Army is developing plans to directly engage individuals in key affected populations most at risk for HIV infection to identify and address unmet needs and expand delivery and uptake of prevention services. Further investigation is underway and will determine whether these findings are generalizable to the Army.
Accidents are one of the leading causes of death among U.S. active duty Army soldiers. Evidence-based approaches to injury prevention could be strengthened by adding person-level characteristics (e.g., demographics) to risk models tested on diverse soldier samples studied over time.
To identify person-level risk indicators of accident deaths in Regular Army soldiers during a time frame of intense military operations, and to discriminate risk of not-line-of-duty (NLOD) from line-of-duty (LOD) accident deaths.
Administrative data acquired from multiple Army/Department of Defense sources for active duty Army soldiers during 2004–2009 were analyzed in 2013. Logistic regression modeling was used to identify person-level sociodemographic, service-related, occupational, and mental health predictors of accident deaths.
Delayed rank progression or demotion and being male, unmarried, in a combat arms specialty, and of low rank/service length increased odds of accident death for enlisted soldiers. Unique to officers was high risk associated with aviation specialties. Accident death risk decreased over time for currently deployed, enlisted soldiers while increasing for those never deployed. Mental health diagnosis was associated with risk only for previous and never-deployed, enlisted soldiers. Models did not discriminate NLOD from LOD accident deaths.
Adding more refined person-level and situational risk indicators to current models could enhance understanding of accident death risk specific to soldier rank and deployment status. Stable predictors could help identify high risk of accident deaths in future cohorts of Regular Army soldiers.
Civilian suicide rates vary by occupation in ways related to occupational stress exposure. Comparable military research finds suicide rates elevated in combat arms occupations. However, no research has evaluated variation in this pattern by deployment history, the indicator of occupation stress widely considered responsible for the recent rise in the military suicide rate.
The joint associations of Army occupation and deployment history in predicting suicides were analysed in an administrative dataset for the 729 337 male enlisted Regular Army soldiers in the US Army between 2004 and 2009.
There were 496 suicides over the study period (22.4/100 000 person-years). Only two occupational categories, both in combat arms, had significantly elevated suicide rates: infantrymen (37.2/100 000 person-years) and combat engineers (38.2/100 000 person-years). However, the suicide rates in these two categories were significantly lower when currently deployed (30.6/100 000 person-years) than never deployed or previously deployed (41.2–39.1/100 000 person-years), whereas the suicide rate of other soldiers was significantly higher when currently deployed and previously deployed (20.2–22.4/100 000 person-years) than never deployed (14.5/100 000 person-years), resulting in the adjusted suicide rate of infantrymen and combat engineers being most elevated when never deployed [odds ratio (OR) 2.9, 95% confidence interval (CI) 2.1–4.1], less so when previously deployed (OR 1.6, 95% CI 1.1–2.1), and not at all when currently deployed (OR 1.2, 95% CI 0.8–1.8). Adjustment for a differential ‘healthy warrior effect’ cannot explain this variation in the relative suicide rates of never-deployed infantrymen and combat engineers by deployment status.
Efforts are needed to elucidate the causal mechanisms underlying this interaction to guide preventive interventions for soldiers at high suicide risk.
Army; Army STARRS; deployment; resiliency factors; suicide
Alcohol use disorders are a serious public health concern among soldiers. Although deployment-related exposures have been linked with alcohol use disorders in soldiers, less is understood about the link between modifiable, civilian stressors and post-deployment alcohol use disorders.
To (1) compare the influence of civilian stressors and deployment-related traumatic events and stressors on post-deployment alcohol use disorders among Army National Guardsmen primarily deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq; and (2) evaluate whether civilian stressors influence a different set of alcohol use disorder phenotypes than deployment-related traumatic events and stressors.
A cohort of Ohio National Guard soldiers was recruited in 2008–2009 and interviewed three times over 3 years. The analytic sample included Ohio National Guard soldiers who had been deployed by 2008–2009, had participated in at least one follow-up wave, had reported consuming at least one alcoholic drink in their lifetime, and had non-missing data on alcohol use disorders (n=1,095). Analyses were conducted in 2013.
In a model including measures of civilian stressors and deployment-related traumatic events, only civilian stressors (OR=2.07, 95% CI=1.46, 2.94) were associated with subsequent alcohol use disorder. The effects of civilian stressors were only present among people with no history of alcohol use disorder.
Independent of deployment-related exposures, post-deployment civilian stressors are associated with the onset of alcohol use disorder among reserve-component soldiers. Concerted investment to address daily civilian difficulties associated with reintegration into civilian life may be needed to prevent new cases of alcohol use disorders among returning military personnel.
In this descriptive case series, 80 soldiers from Fort Campbell, Kentucky, with inhalational exposures during service in Iraq and Afghanistan were evaluated for dyspnea on exertion that prevented them from meeting the U.S. Army's standards for physical fitness.
The soldiers underwent extensive evaluation of their medical and exposure history, physical examination, pulmonary-function testing, and high-resolution computed tomography (CT). A total of 49 soldiers underwent thoracoscopic lung biopsy after noninvasive evaluation did not provide an explanation for their symptoms. Data on cardiopulmonary-exercise and pulmonary-function testing were compared with data obtained from historical military control subjects.
Among the soldiers who were referred for evaluation, a history of inhalational exposure to a 2003 sulfur-mine fire in Iraq was common but not universal. Of the 49 soldiers who underwent lung biopsy, all biopsy samples were abnormal, with 38 soldiers having changes that were diagnostic of constrictive bronchiolitis. In the remaining 11 soldiers, diagnoses other than constrictive bronchiolitis that could explain the presenting dyspnea were established. All soldiers with constrictive bronchiolitis had normal results on chest radiography, but about one quarter were found to have mosaic air trapping or centrilobular nodules on chest CT. The results of pulmonary-function and cardiopulmonary-exercise testing were generally within normal population limits but were inferior to those of the military control subjects.
In 49 previously healthy soldiers with unexplained exertional dyspnea and diminished exercise tolerance after deployment, an analysis of biopsy samples showed diffuse constrictive bronchiolitis, which was possibly associated with inhalational exposure, in 38 soldiers.
The Army Study to Assess Risk and Resilience in Servicemembers (Army STARRS) has found that the proportional elevation in the US Army enlisted soldier suicide rate during deployment (compared with the never-deployed or previously deployed) is significantly higher among women than men, raising the possibility of gender differences in the adverse psychological effects of deployment.
Person-month survival models based on a consolidated administrative database for active duty enlisted Regular Army soldiers in 2004–2009 (n = 975 057) were used to characterize the gender × deployment interaction predicting suicide. Four explanatory hypotheses were explored involving the proportion of females in each soldier’s occupation, the proportion of same-gender soldiers in each soldier’s unit, whether the soldier reported sexual assault victimization in the previous 12 months, and the soldier’s pre-deployment history of treated mental/behavioral disorders.
The suicide rate of currently deployed women (14.0/100 000 person-years) was 3.1–3.5 times the rates of other (i.e. never-deployed/previously deployed) women. The suicide rate of currently deployed men (22.6/100 000 person-years) was 0.9–1.2 times the rates of other men. The adjusted (for time trends, sociodemographics, and Army career variables) female:male odds ratio comparing the suicide rates of currently deployed v. other women v. men was 2.8 (95% confidence interval 1.1–6.8), became 2.4 after excluding soldiers with Direct Combat Arms occupations, and remained elevated (in the range 1.9–2.8) after adjusting for the hypothesized explanatory variables.
These results are valuable in excluding otherwise plausible hypotheses for the elevated suicide rate of deployed women and point to the importance of expanding future research on the psychological challenges of deployment for women.
Army; Army STARRS; epidemiology; gender; military; risk factors; suicide
Combat places soldiers at risk for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The excessive rates of PTSD and other adjustment disorders in soldiers returning home make it imperative to identify risk and resilience factors that could be targeted by novel therapeutic treatments.
To investigate the interplay among attention to threat, combat exposure, and other risk factors for PTSD symptoms in soldiers deployed to combat.
Design and Setting
Longitudinal prospective study of Israeli Defense Force infantry soldiers carried out in 2008 through 2010. Repeated measurements during a 1-year period included baseline and predeployment data collected in training camps and deployment data collected in the combat theater.
Infantry soldiers (1085 men; mean age,18.8 years).
Main Outcome Measures
Postcombat PTSD symptoms.
Soldiers developed threat vigilance during combat deployment, particularly when they were exposed to high-intensity combat, as indicated by faster response times to targets appearing at the location of threat relative to neutral stimuli (P < .001). Threat-related attention bias also interacted with combat exposure to predict risk for PTSD (P <.05). Bias toward threat at recruitment (P <.001) and bias away from threat just before deployment (P < .05) predicted postcombat PTSD symptoms. Moreover, these threat-related attention associations with PTSD were moderated by genetic and environmental factors, including serotonin transporter (5-HTTLPR) genotype.
Conclusions and Relevance
Combat exposure interacts with threat-related attention to place soldiers at risk for PTSD, and interactions with other risk factors account for considerable variance in PTSD vulnerability. Understanding these associations informs research on novel attention bias modification techniques and prevention of PTSD.
In 2006 and 2007, around 0.4 and 0.7% of all German soldiers involved in missions abroad were registered as suffering from PTSD. The frequency of PTSD in the German Armed Forces was assessed from army records. All soldiers admitted to the German Military Hospital in Hamburg, Germany, with PTSD (n = 117) in the years 2006 and 2007 were assessed by using questionnaires and structure interviews. Risk factors associated with PTSD were identified. Of the 117 soldiers with PTSD, 39.3% were in missions abroad, and 18.0% had participated in combat situations. Five (4.3%) were wounded in combat, and 4 of them had a serious irreversible injury. In total, 53.8% of the PTSD cases were related to injuries or physical/sexual abuse, while 46.2% were due to psychological traumatization. Among soldiers with PTSD who were not abroad, sexual or physical abuse were the most common traumas. In 35.9% of the patients, there was evidence for psychiatric disorders existing before the traumatic event. The percentage of women among sufferers from PTSD was significantly higher than the proportion of women in the armed forces (30.8% vs. 5.17%). A careful psychiatric screening before recruitment might help to identify persons at risk of PTSD.
Posttraumatic stress disorder; PTSD; Soldiers; Forces; Combat; Treatment
In addition to experiencing traumatic events while deployed in a combat environment, there are other factors that contribute to the development of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in military service members. This study explored the contribution of genetics, childhood environment, prior trauma, psychological, cognitive, and deployment factors to the development of traumatic stress following deployment.
Both pre‐ and postdeployment data on 231 of 458 soldiers were analyzed. Postdeployment assessments occurred within 30 days from returning stateside and included a battery of psychological health, medical history, and demographic questionnaires; neurocognitive tests; and blood serum for the D2 dopamine receptor (DRD2), apolipoprotein E (APOE), and brain‐derived neurotropic factor (BDNF) genes.
Soldiers who screened positive for traumatic stress at postdeployment had significantly higher scores in depression (d = 1.91), anxiety (d = 1.61), poor sleep quality (d = 0.92), postconcussion symptoms (d = 2.21), alcohol use (d = 0.63), traumatic life events (d = 0.42), and combat exposure (d = 0.91). BDNF Val66 Met genotype was significantly associated with risk for sustaining a mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) and screening positive for traumatic stress. Predeployment traumatic stress, greater combat exposure and sustaining an mTBI while deployed, and the BDNF Met/Met genotype accounted for 22% of the variance of postdeployment PTSD scores (R
2 = 0.22, P < 0.001). However, predeployment traumatic stress, alone, accounted for 17% of the postdeployment PTSD scores.
These findings suggest predeployment traumatic stress, genetic, and environmental factors have unique contributions to the development of combat‐related traumatic stress in military service members.
BDNF; deployment; genetics; military; posttraumatic stress disorder; psychological health; traumatic brain injury
A representative sample of 5,428 non-deployed Regular Army soldiers completed a self-administered questionnaire (SAQ) and consented to linking SAQ data with administrative records as part of the Army Study to Assess Risk and Resilience in Servicemembers (Army STARRS). The SAQ included information about prevalence and treatment of mental disorders among respondents with current DSM-IV internalizing (anxiety, mood) and externalizing (disruptive behavior, substance) disorders. 21.3% of soldiers with any current disorder reported current treatment. Seven significant predictors of being in treatment rates were identified. Four of these 7 were indicators of psychopathology (bipolar disorder, panic disorder, PTSD, 8+ months duration of disorder). Two were socio-demographics (history of marriage, not being Non-Hispanic Black). The final predictor was history of deployment. Treatment rates varied between 4.7 and 71.5% depending on how many positive predictors the soldier had. The vast majority of soldiers had a low number of these predictors. These results document that most non-deployed soldiers with mental disorders are not in treatment and that untreated soldiers are not concentrated in a particular segment of the population that might be targeted for special outreach efforts. Analysis of modifiable barriers to treatment is needed to help strengthen outreach efforts.
mental health; treatment; military; barriers
The Army Study to Assess Risk and Resilience in Servicemembers (Army STARRS) is a multi-component epidemiological and neurobiological study designed to generate actionable recommendations to reduce U.S. Army suicides and increase knowledge about determinants of suicidality. Three Army STARRS component studies are large-scale surveys: one of new soldiers prior to beginning Basic Combat Training (BCT; n=50,765 completed self-administered questionnaires); another of other soldiers exclusive of those in BCT (n=35,372); and a third of three Brigade Combat Teams about to deploy to Afghanistan who are being followed multiple times after returning from deployment (n= 9,421). Although the response rates in these surveys are quite good (72.0-90.8%), questions can be raised about sample biases in estimating prevalence of mental disorders and suicidality, the main outcomes of the surveys based on evidence that people in the general population with mental disorders are under-represented in community surveys. This paper presents the results of analyses designed to determine whether such bias exists in the Army STARRS surveys and, if so, to develop weights to correct for these biases. Data are also presented on sample inefficiencies introduced by weighting and sample clustering and on analyses of the trade-off between bias and efficiency in weight trimming.
Suicide; mental disorders; U.S. Army; epidemiologic research design; design effects; sample bias; sample weights; survey design efficiency; survey sampling
Literature is lacking on acute surgical problems that may be encountered on military deployment; even less has been written on whether or not any of these surgical problems could have been avoided with more focused predeployment screening. We sought to determine the burden of illness attributable to acute nontraumatic general surgical problems while on deployment and to identify areas where more rigorous predeployment screening could be implemented to decrease surgical resource use for nontraumatic problems.
We studied all Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members deployed to Afghanistan between Feb. 7, 2006, and June 30, 2011, who required treatment for a nontraumatic general surgical condition.
During the study period 28 990 CAF personnel deployed to Afghanistan; 373 (1.28%) were repatriated because of disease and 100 (0.34%) developed an acute general surgical condition. Among those who developed an acute surgical illness, 42 were combat personnel (42%) and 58 were support personnel (58%). Urologic diagnoses (n = 34) were the most frequent acute surgical conditions, followed by acute appendicitis (n = 18) and hernias (n = 12). We identified 5 areas where intensified predeployment screening could have potentially decreased the incidence of in-theatre acute surgical illness.
Our findings suggest that there is a significant acute care surgery element encountered on combat deployment, and surgeons tasked with caring for this population should be prepared to treat these patients.
This report analyzes the occurrence of Cryptosporidium spp., E.
histolytica, and G. intestinalis in stool of returnees from
military deployments and the impact of hygiene precautions. Between 2007 and 2010, stool
samples of 830 returnees that were obtained 8–12 weeks after military deployments
in Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, the Balkans, Democratic Republic of the Congo/Gabonese
Republic, and Sudan and 292 control samples from non-deployed soldiers were analyzed by
PCR for Cryptosporidium spp., E. histolytica, G.
intestinalis, and the commensal indicator of fecal contamination E.
dispar. Data on hygiene precautions were available. The soldiers were
questioned regarding gastrointestinal and general symptoms. Among 1122 stool samples, 18
were positive for G. intestinalis, 10 for E. dispar, and
no-one for Cryptosporidium spp. and E. histolytica. An
increased risk of acquiring chronic parasitic infections in comparison with non-deployed
controls was demonstrated only for G. intestinalis in Sudan, where
standardized food and drinking water hygiene precautions could not be implemented.
Standard food and drinking water hygiene precautions in the context of screened military
field camps proved to be highly reliable in preventing food-borne and water-borne chronic
infections and colonization by intestinal protozoa, leading to detection proportions
similar to those in non-deployed controls.
deployment, field camp, food hygiene, water hygiene, parasite, real-time PCR
The prevalence of suicide among U.S. Army soldiers has risen dramatically in recent years. Prior studies suggest that most soldiers with suicidal behaviors (i.e., ideation, plans, and attempts) had first onsets prior to enlistment. However, those data are based on retrospective self-reports of soldiers later in their Army careers. Unbiased examination of this issue requires investigation of suicidality among new soldiers.
The New Soldier Study (NSS) of the Army Study to Assess Risk and Resilience in Servicemembers (Army STARRS) used fully structured self-administered measures to estimate preenlistment histories of suicide ideation, plans, and attempts among new soldiers reporting for Basic Combat Training in 2011–2012. Survival models examined sociodemographic correlates of each suicidal outcome.
Lifetime prevalence estimates of preenlistment suicide ideation, plans, and attempts were 14.1, 2.3, and 1.9%, respectively. Most reported onsets of suicide plans and attempts (73.3–81.5%) occurred within the first year after onset of ideation. Odds of these lifetime suicidal behaviors among new soldiers were positively, but weakly associated with being female, unmarried, religion other than Protestant or Catholic, and a race/ethnicity other than non-Hispanic White, non-Hispanic Black, or Hispanic.
Lifetime prevalence estimates of suicidal behaviors among new soldiers are consistent with retrospective reports of preenlistment prevalence obtained from soldiers later in their Army careers. Given that prior suicidal behaviors are among the strongest predictors of later suicides, consideration should be given to developing methods of obtaining valid reports of preenlistment suicidality from new soldiers to facilitate targeting of preventive interventions.
military personnel; prevalence; suicide; suicide ideation; suicide attempt
All deployed British Army personnel carry intramuscular (IM) morphine auto-injectors to treat battlefield casualties. No other nation supplies parenteral opiate analgesia on individual issue. Studies highlight this agent’s inefficacy and safety issues, but are limited by a relative lack of inclusion of frontline personnel. We aimed to determine the opinions of frontline medical personnel on current battlefield analgesia.
We surveyed 88 British Army frontline medical personnel (medical officers (n = 12), nurses (n = 7), combat medical technicians (CMTs) (n = 67), paramedics (n = 1) and health-care assistants (n = 1)) upon completion of a six-month deployment (September 2011 to April 2012) to Helmand Province, Afghanistan, using Likert scale questions on the efficacy of battlefield analgesia, complications of IM morphine, safety of morphine auto-injectors and its suitability for treating child casualties.
A total of 88/88 questionnaires were returned. Of these, 61/88 had treated casualties on the battlefield, 26/86 agreed that current battlefield analgesia is effective, 80/87 agreed that a more potent analgesic with a faster onset than IM morphine is desirable in the first hour following injury, 47/65 CMTs agreed that they can manage complications of current battlefield analgesia and 53/86 respondents correctly disagreed that current battlefield analgesia is suitable for child casualties. The potential for accidental self-injection was reported.
A more potent, faster onset analgesic than IM morphine is desirable in the first hour following injury. Pre-deployment training should emphasise management of complications of opiate analgesics and treatment of child casualties. Oral transmucosal fentanyl citrate is now being issued to all frontline medical personnel. IM morphine will remain on individual issue to all deployed soldiers for environments where an oral agent is not suitable, for example, chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear warfare.
Frontline medical personnel agree that a more potent, faster onset analgesic than IM morphine is desirable in the first hour following injury.
The two most desirable features of the ideal analgesic were ranked as rapid onset of action, and when fully onset produces a high degree of pain relief.
Oral transmucosal fentanyl citrate (OTFC) has now been issued to all frontline medical personnel as an adjunct to IM morphine.
IM morphine will remain on individual issue for situations where parenteral analgesia is required.
Consideration should be given to individual issue of OTFC to all deployed personnel in the future.
Pre-deployment training should emphasise management of complications of opiate analgesics and treatment of child casualties.
Analgesia/pain control; military; pre-hospital care; trauma; remote and rural medicine
High rates of alcohol misuse after deployment have been reported among personnel returning from past conflicts, yet investigations of alcohol misuse after return from the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are lacking.
To determine whether deployment with combat exposures was associated with new-onset or continued alcohol consumption, binge drinking, and alcohol-related problems.
Design, Setting, and Participants
Data were from Millennium Cohort Study participants who completed both a baseline (July 2001 to June 2003; n=77 047) and follow-up (June 2004 to February 2006; n=55 021) questionnaire (follow-up response rate=71.4%). After we applied exclusion criteria, our analyses included 48 481 participants (active duty, n=26 613; Reserve or National Guard, n=21 868). Of these, 5510 deployed with combat exposures, 5661 deployed without combat exposures, and 37 310 did not deploy.
Main Outcome Measures
New-onset and continued heavy weekly drinking, binge drinking, and alcohol-related problems at follow-up.
Baseline prevalence of heavy weekly drinking, binge drinking, and alcohol-related problems among Reserve or National Guard personnel who deployed with combat exposures was 9.0%, 53.6%, and 15.2%, respectively; follow-up prevalence was 12.5%, 53.0%, and 11.9%, respectively; and new-onset rates were 8.8%, 25.6%, and 7.1%, respectively. Among active-duty personnel, new-onset rates were 6.0%, 26.6%, and 4.8%, respectively. Reserve and National Guard personnel who deployed and reported combat exposures were significantly more likely to experience new-onset heavy weekly drinking (odds ratio [OR], 1.63; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.36–1.96), binge drinking (OR, 1.46; 95% CI, 1.24–1.71), and alcohol-related problems (OR, 1.63; 95% CI, 1.33–2.01) compared with nondeployed personnel. The youngest members of the cohort were at highest risk for all alcohol-related outcomes.
Reserve and National Guard personnel and younger service members who deploy with reported combat exposures are at increased risk of new-onset heavy weekly drinking, binge drinking, and alcohol-related problems.
Objective To describe new onset and persistence of self reported post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms in a large population based military cohort, many of whom were deployed in support of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Design Prospective cohort analysis.
Setting and participants Survey enrolment data from the millennium cohort (July 2001 to June 2003) obtained before the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Follow-up (June 2004 to February 2006) data on health outcomes collected from 50 184 participants.
Main outcome measures Self reported post-traumatic stress disorder as measured by the posttraumatic stress disorder checklist—civilian version using Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fourth edition criteria.
Results More than 40% of the cohort were deployed between 2001 and 2006; between baseline and follow-up, 24% deployed for the first time in support of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. New incidence rates of 10-13 cases of post-traumatic stress disorder per 1000 person years occurred in the millennium cohort. New onset self reported post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms or diagnosis were identified in 7.6-8.7% of deployers who reported combat exposures, 1.4-2.1% of deployers who did not report combat exposures, and 2.3-3.0% of non-deployers. Among those with self reported symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder at baseline, deployment did not affect persistence of symptoms.
Conclusions After adjustment for baseline characteristics, these prospective data indicate a threefold increase in new onset self reported post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms or diagnosis among deployed military personnel who reported combat exposures. The findings define the importance of post-traumatic stress disorder in this population and emphasise that specific combat exposures, rather than deployment itself, significantly affect the onset of symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder after deployment.
Military personnel deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, from 2004 to the present, has served in a setting of unique environmental conditions. Among these are exposures to burning trash in open air “burn pits” lit on fire with jet fuel JP-8. Depending on trash burned--water bottles, styrofoam trays, medical waste, unexploded munitions, and computers--toxins may be released such as dioxins and n-hexane and benzene. Particulate matter air pollution culminates from these fires and fumes. Additional environmental exposures entail sandstorms (Haboob, Shamal, and Sharqi) which differ in direction and relationship to rain. These wars saw the first use of improvised explosive devices (roadside phosphate bombs),as well as vehicle improvised explosive devices (car bombs), which not only potentially aerosolize metals, but also create shock waves to induce lung injury via blast overpressure. Conventional mortar rounds are also used by Al Qaeda in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Outdoor aeroallergens from date palm trees are prevalent in southern Iraq by the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, while indoor aeroallergen aspergillus predominates during the rainy season. High altitude lung disease may also compound the problem, particularly in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Clinically, soldiers may present with new-onset asthma or fixed airway obstruction. Some have constrictive bronchiolitis and vascular remodeling on open lung biopsy - despite having normal spirometry and chest xrays and CT scans of the chest. Others have been found to have titanium and other metals in the lung (rare in nature). Still others have fulminant biopsy-proven sarcoidiosis. We found DNA probe–positive Mycobacterium Avium Complex in lung from a soldier who had pneumonia, while serving near stagnant water and camels and goats outside Abu Gharib. This review highlights potential exposures, clinical syndromes, and the Denver Working Group recommendations on post-deployment health.
Burn pits; Aeroallergenaspergillus; Bronchiolitis; Mycobacterium avium complex
A total of 675,626 active duty Army soldiers who were known to be at risk for deployment to the Persian Gulf were followed from 1980 through the Persian Gulf War. Hospitalization histories for the entire cohort and Health Risk Appraisal surveys for a subset of 374 soldiers were used to evaluate prewar distress, health, and behaviors. Deployers were less likely to have had any prewar hospitalizations or hospitalization for a condition commonly reported among Gulf War veterans or to report experiences of depression/suicidal ideation. Deployers reported greater satisfaction with life and relationships but displayed greater tendencies toward risk-taking, such as drunk driving, speeding, and failure to wear safety belts. Deployed veterans were more likely to receive hazardous duty pay and to be hospitalized for an injury than nondeployed Gulf War-era veterans. If distress is a predictor of postwar morbidity, it is likely attributable to experiences occurring during or after the war and not related to prewar exposures or health status. Postwar excess injury risk may be explained in part by a propensity for greater risk-taking, which was evident before and persisted throughout the war.
The US Army suicide rate has increased sharply in recent years. Identifying significant predictors of Army suicides in Army and Department of Defense (DoD) administrative records might help focus prevention efforts and guide intervention content. Previous studies of administrative data, although documenting significant predictors, were based on limited samples and models. A career history perspective is used here to develop more textured models.
The analysis was carried out as part of the Historical Administrative Data Study (HADS) of the Army Study to Assess Risk and Resilience in Servicemembers (Army STARRS). De-identified data were combined across numerous Army and DoD administrative data systems for all Regular Army soldiers on active duty in 2004–2009. Multivariate associations of sociodemographics and Army career variables with suicide were examined in subgroups defined by time in service, rank and deployment history.
Several novel results were found that could have intervention implications. The most notable of these were significantly elevated suicide rates (69.6–80.0 suicides per 100000 person-years compared with 18.5 suicides per 100000 person-years in the total Army) among enlisted soldiers deployed either during their first year of service or with less than expected (based on time in service) junior enlisted rank; a substantially greater rise in suicide among women than men during deployment; and a protective effect of marriage against suicide only during deployment.
A career history approach produces several actionable insights missed in less textured analyses of administrative data predictors. Expansion of analyses to a richer set of predictors might help refine understanding of intervention implications.
Army; Army STARRS; epidemiology; military; risk factors; suicide