Brain Injuries May Be Driving Higher Death Rate for U.S. Veterans

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News Picture: Brain Injuries May Be Driving Higher Death Rate for U.S. Veterans

WEDNESDAY, Feb. 16, 2022 (HealthDay Information)

At one time, army veterans have been usually more healthy than the typical American. However a brand new examine finds that vets who’ve served since 9/11 have increased than common demise charges — particularly these with a historical past of brain injury.

The study, of greater than 2.5 million army veterans, discovered that post-9/11 service members have been dying at the next charge than Individuals total prior to now twenty years.

The surplus deaths have been concentrated amongst veterans below 45, and most have been from suicide and accidents. However service members additionally confirmed heightened dangers of dying early from different causes, too — starting from murder to cancer.

That was notably the case for these with a historical past of traumatic brain injury, the examine discovered. And the extra extreme the damage, the larger the dangers.

In all, researchers discovered, there have been over 4,300 extra deaths amongst veterans youthful than 45 than can be anticipated.

The findings — printed Feb. 11 in JAMA Network Open — stand in distinction to what was seen amongst U.S. veterans of previous conflicts. In what researchers name the “wholesome soldier impact,” these vets confirmed decrease demise charges, relative to Individuals total.

Nonetheless, the regarding tendencies on this examine are usually not solely sudden.

The issue of suicide amongst post-9/11 veterans has lengthy been on the radar, mentioned lead researcher Jeffrey Howard, of the College of Texas at San Antonio.

Whereas these deaths stay uncommon, analysis has proven that service members’ suicide charges started to rise sharply round 2005 — and have remained excessive, compared to the overall inhabitants.

However whether or not veterans have elevated dangers of demise from different causes had been unclear, in line with Howard.

His staff discovered that in contrast with Individuals of the identical age, intercourse and racial/ethnic background, veterans had the next charge of demise from murder, cancer, suicide and accidents. The latter two have been by far the most important contributors.

Howard mentioned the big variety of deaths from accidents was one thing of a shock — and never readily defined.

“We do not know what sort of accidents these have been, particularly,” he mentioned. “Had been they falls? Had been they visitors accidents?”

But it surely’s doable, Howard mentioned, that mental health points, together with depression and substance use, might be one frequent denominator driving extra deaths from each suicide and accidents.

“This is a crucial examine,” mentioned Dr. Jeffrey Borenstein, president and CEO of the nonprofit Mind and Conduct Analysis Basis in New York Metropolis.

Borenstein, who was not concerned within the analysis, mentioned it isn’t clear why veterans have been at larger danger of demise from varied causes. He famous that some deaths decided to be accidents might have, the truth is, been suicide.

However the backside line, Borenstein mentioned, is that veterans fighting depression, post-traumatic stress or different mental health points “ought to get the assistance they deserve.”

“Search assist,” he mentioned. “Don’t undergo in silence.”

And that assist could also be particularly necessary for veterans with a historical past of brain injury. Of all veterans within the examine, about one-fifth had sustained a traumatic brain injury. Most frequently they have been delicate, however 3% had suffered a average to extreme mind damage.

These veterans with extra extreme mind trauma accounted for one-third of all extra deaths — 11 instances greater than can be anticipated.

In addition they had the very best charges of demise from a spread of causes — not solely suicide, accidents and murder, but in addition medical situations like heart disease.


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Once more, Howard mentioned, the examine can’t say why. However mind accidents can have pervasive results on an individual’s life and total well being, he famous.

Severe mind trauma can have an effect on behaviors like impulse management and risk-taking — potential elements in accidents and homicides. It might additionally “alter the physiology of the physique,” contributing to persistent irritation and different states that feed illness, Howard mentioned.

Previous research, he famous, have discovered that veterans with fight accidents could also be at elevated danger of ills like high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease.

However whereas well being care is vital for veterans, the deaths attributed to suicide and accidents, and to a lesser extent murder, level to the necessity for “social interventions,” Howard mentioned.

“As a society,” he mentioned, “we nonetheless have numerous work to do when it comes to job coaching and serving to service members transition again into civilian life.

“If there may be ‘excellent news’ on this story,” Howard added, “it is that numerous these deaths amongst veterans are preventable.”

Extra info

The U.S. Division of Veterans Affairs has mental health resources for veterans.

SOURCES: Jeffrey Howard, PhD, affiliate professor, public well being, College of Texas at San Antonio; Jeffrey Borenstein, MD, president and CEO, Mind and Conduct Analysis Basis, New York Metropolis; JAMA Community Open, Feb. 11, 2022, on-line

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