Occupational trauma and mental illness--combat, peacekeeping, or relief work and the national co-morbidity survey replication

J Occup Environ Med. 2011 Dec;53(12):1360-3. doi: 10.1097/JOM.0b013e318234e2ec.


Objective: Peacekeepers, relief workers, and military members experience multiple traumas, and trauma is believed to increase risk for psychiatric distress. We examined whether combat and/or peacekeeping or relief work was associated with subsequent mental illness.

Methods: Using data from the US National Co-morbidity Survey Replication (n = 2383), we estimated whether combat, peacekeeping, or relief work was associated with increased prevalence of mental illness through bivariate cross-tabulations and multivariate logistic regression.

Results: Combat was associated with increased subsequent posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and alcohol or drug issues more than peacekeeping or relief work.

Conclusions: Combat, alone or combined with peacekeeping/relief work, appears to be a risk factor for subsequent PTSD and issues with drugs and alcohol. Peacekeeping/relief work without combat does not appear to be associated with these diagnoses.

Clinical significance: We found an association between combat and subsequent PTSD and drug and alcohol issues. Absent combat, peacekeeping, or relief work were not associated with mental illness. Previous diagnoses and trauma exposure may increase potential for subsequent mental health problems.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Combat Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Combat Disorders / psychology
  • Comorbidity
  • Health Surveys / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Mental Disorders / psychology
  • Middle Aged
  • Military Personnel / psychology
  • Military Personnel / statistics & numerical data
  • Occupational Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Occupational Diseases / psychology
  • Prevalence
  • Relief Work / statistics & numerical data*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / epidemiology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology