Psychological health of Australian veterans of the 1991 Gulf War: an assessment using the SF-12, GHQ-12 and PCL-S

Psychol Med. 2004 Nov;34(8):1419-30. doi: 10.1017/s0033291704002818.


Background: Elevated rates of psychological morbidity and symptomatology have been widely reported in 1991 Gulf War veterans. The present study used brief self-report instruments to compare the psychological health of Australian Gulf War veterans with that of a randomly sampled military comparison group.

Method: The 12-item Short Form Health Survey (SF-12), 12-item General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-12), Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Checklist--Specific (PCL-S) and Military Service Experience (MSE) questionnaire were administered to 1424 male Australian Gulf War veterans and 1548 male Australian Defence Force members who were operational at the time of the Gulf War conflict, but were not deployed there.

Results: The Gulf War veterans exhibited poorer psychological health, as measured by the above three instruments, than the comparison group members. For Gulf War veterans, the number of stressful experiences, as measured by the MSE questionnaire, was correlated with scores on the three instruments. SF-12 mental health component summary scores and PCL-S caseness, but not GHQ-12 caseness, differed significantly between Gulf War veterans and comparison group members who had been on at least one active deployment.

Conclusions: More than a decade after the 1991 Gulf War, Australian Gulf War veterans are exhibiting higher levels of current (past month) psychological ill-health, as measured using the GHQ-12 and PCL-S, as well as lower mental health status, as measured by the SF-12, than the comparison group. Although not a replacement for formal psychiatric diagnosis, instruments such as those above may aid in the assessment of veterans' psychological health.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Australia
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Female
  • Gulf War*
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology
  • Mental Disorders / etiology
  • Mental Disorders / psychology*
  • Mental Health
  • Morbidity
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Veterans / psychology*