Health Status, Somatization, and Severity of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in Vietnam Combat Veterans With Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

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Abstract

Objective

A two-part study was conducted to examine the health status of Vietnam veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In part 1, veterans with and without PTSD were compared on health behaviors and on self-reported and physician-rated health problems. Consistency of self-report with physician rating for health problems across the two groups was compared. In part 2, the association between health status and PTSD symptom severity, depression, somatization, and health behaviors in PTSD patients was evaluated.

Method

In part 1, 276 combat veterans (225 with PTSD and 51 without PTSD) provided health status information, and medical records were reviewed. In part 2, 225 PTSD patients completed standardized PTSD severity, somatization, and depression measures.

Results

When analyses controlled for age, socioeconomic status, minority status, combat exposure, alcohol use, and pack-year history, veterans with PTSD reported and were rated as having a greater number of health problems than veterans without PTSD. Agreement between self-report and physician ratings for both groups ranged from low to moderate. Level of agreement between patient and physician was similar across groups. In the analysis of veterans with PTSD, somatization and PTSD symptom severity were significantly related to self-report of health problems, whereas only PTSD symptom severity was related to physician-rated health. Pack-year history was significantly related to self-reported health status in both groups.

Conclusions

The presence and severity of PTSD in veterans were associated with greater physical health problems and conditions. Psychological variables (e.g., PTSD status, PTSD severity, somatization) and a behavioral variable (pack-year history) were related to health status.

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