Follow Up on 1991 Gulf War Veterans
From 1995 to 2005, the health of these veterans worsened in comparison to the veterans who did not deploy to the Persian Gulf. A study done in the United Kingdom that compared Gulf War veterans to UN peacekeepers who served in Bosnia and other non-deployed Gulf War soldiers found the same thing. The deployed veterans had significantly worse health in all realms.
This was a longitudinal study and the veterans self reported their health status. Over time the deployed veterans reported new conditions that persisted or worsened with time.
The authors note that the health problems cannot be proven to be due to the effects of the military service in the Gulf War. But previous studies also found a higher prevalence of PTSD and other mental disorders among deployed Gulf War soldiers. This study also showed high rates of PSTD (14.4% compared to non-deployed, 4%).
There are numerous animal experiments that show exposure to repeated stress disrupts the blood-brain barrier and increases neurotoxicity induced by chemicals in many cerebral areas. Gulf War soldiers were exposed to organosphosphate chemical warfare agents. Even low level exposure to nerve agents can have a negative effect on brain structure years later. In another study of Gulf War veterans, they found the soldiers with fatigue, mood or cognitive complaints demonstrated impaired immune function.
There is no doubt that our war veterans return home with significant health risks, even if they are not visibly wounded in battle. These young men and women deserve not only our respect and praise, but the best mental and physical health care that we can provide.