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Br J Psychiatry. 2003 Oct;183:314-22.

Stability of recall of military hazards over time. Evidence from the Persian Gulf War of 1991.

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  • 1King's Centre for Military Health Research, King's College London, UK.



War time traumatic events are related to subsequent psychological and physical health, but quantifying the association is problematic. Memory changes over time and is influenced by psychological status.


To use a large, two-stage cohort study of members of the UK armed forces to study changes in recall of both traumatic and 'toxic' hazards.


A questionnaire-based follow-up study assessed 2370 UK military personnel, repeating earlier questions about exposure to military hazards.


The k statistics for reporting of hazards were good for some exposures, but very low for others. Gulf veterans reported more exposures over time (no significant rise in the Bosnia cohort). In the Gulf cohort only, reporting new exposures was associated with worsening health perception, and forgetting previously reported exposures with improved perception. We found no association between physical health, psychological morbidity or post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms and endorsement or non-endorsement of exposures.


Reporting of military hazards after a conflict is not static, and is associated with current self-rated perception of health. Self-report of exposures associated with media publicity needs to be treated with caution.

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