A recent study showed that Vietnam veterans were at a higher risk of dying both from internal ailments like cancer, and external causes such as traffic accidents, murder, and suicide. The study by ABT Associates and the Cohen Veterans Center at NYU’s Langone Medical Center followed 2,400 Vietnam veterans from 1981-2011.
While the exact causes of this higher risk of death than the general population were largely unknown, the role of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) looms large in this scenario. Many Vietnam veterans are in their 60’s and 70’s which has given good data for medical experts to work with.
Post-traumatic stress disorder is a mental condition that develops in individuals who have been through traumatic experiences that involved threats to their lives. Examples of these incidents include combat experiences, traffic accidents, sexual assault, and even natural disasters.
Symptoms of PTSD included disturbing thoughts and dreams related to the incident, adverse mental and physical reaction to cues similar to those of the experience e.g. sounds and sights, avoidance and heightened state of alertness for prolonged periods.
PTSD and Vietnam Veterans
The study of PTSD was largely made clear by studying the data on Vietnam veterans. Psychiatrists had observed the condition in veterans of earlier wars, but the term PTSD came into use in the 1980’s after careful study of Vietnam War veterans.
The NYU study showed that even decades after the Vietnam war, 1 in 10 Vietnam veterans still suffer from PTSD. In the 1980s the US government commissioned the National Vietnam Veterans’ Readjustment Study. It showed that 15% of the veterans at the time were suffering PTSD while 30% had suffered at one point after the war. A re-analysis of the data and follow-up of the veterans later showed that 4 out of 5 veterans report some symptoms of PTSD over 40 years after the war.
PTSD and Suicide
One clear line of data shows that the risk of suicide is higher in combat veterans than those who never saw combat. From 1999-2010, it was observed that the US the suicide rate among males was 19.4 per 100,000 people in the general population. For combat veterans, the rate rose to 38.3 per 100,000 veterans. This was almost double.
Suicidal thoughts among war veterans have been attributed to factors like survivor’s guilt which makes the veteran feel he should have died along with friends, and severe debilitating injury which makes it hard for the veteran to physically recover from combat.
Other causes of the higher risk of death among veterans like murder and traffic accidents have largely remained unexplained.
When a veteran dies because of someone else’s negligence, they have the right to pursue a wrongful death claim. Hiring an experienced Los Angeles wrongful death lawyer can go a long way towards helping you recover hundreds, thousands, or even millions of dollars after a family member passes.