Health care providers need to be aware that stress complaints that result from deployment can emerge even after many years. This has important implications for health care policies. The main aim of this study is to investigate the relation between the development of posttraumatic stress and other mental health complaints and the burden on (mental) health care after a deployment. For this study we used data from a large prospective cohort study on stress-factors related to deployment in 1007 Dutch soldiers, who were deployed to Afghanistan. Participants were assessed at six follow up times up until five years after deployment. In a Generalized Estimated Equations model we estimated the relation between mental health complaints and the utilization of psychological treatment and a general practitioner, respectively. Moreover, we studied the relation between mental health complaints and health care costs using bootstrap techniques. The results showed that higher scores for PTSD, depression and fatigue relate to increased use of a psychologist. And lower PTSD scores and higher depression, anxiety and somatization scores relate to increased odds to visit a GP. Furthermore, mental health complaints relate to higher costs. In conclusion, monitoring soldiers is important in order to be informed on the current demand for (mental) health care to satisfy the health care need of veterans. Early treatment, which is enabled by lowering barriers to care, relates to positive results and therefore, lower health care costs.
Keywords: Health care costs; Mental health; Military deployment; Posttraumatic-stress disorder.
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