Adverse health consequences of the Vietnam War

Med Confl Surviv. 2015;31(3-4):162-70. doi: 10.1080/13623699.2015.1090862. Epub 2015 Nov 19.


The 40th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War is a useful time to review the adverse health consequences of that war and to identify and address serious problems related to armed conflict, such as the protection of noncombatant civilians. More than 58,000 U.S. servicemembers died during the war and more than 150,000 were wounded. Many suffered from posttraumatic stress disorders and other mental disorders and from the long-term consequences of physical injuries. However, morbidity and mortality, although difficult to determine precisely, was substantially higher among the Vietnamese people, with at least two million of them dying during the course of the war. In addition, more than one million Vietnamese were forced to migrate during the war and its aftermath, including many "boat people" who died at sea during attempts to flee. Wars continue to kill and injure large numbers of noncombatant civilians and continue to damage the health-supporting infrastructure of society, expose civilians to toxic chemicals, forcibly displace many people, and divert resources away from services to benefit noncombatant civilians. Health professionals can play important roles in promoting the protection of noncombatant civilians during war and helping to prevent war and create a culture of peace.

Keywords: Vietnam War; armed conflict; mental health; public health; trauma; war.

MeSH terms

  • Combat Disorders / etiology*
  • Combat Disorders / prevention & control
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Mental Health
  • Public Health*
  • United States
  • Vietnam Conflict*