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Epidemiology. 2004 Mar;15(2):135-42.

Gulf War veterans with anxiety: prevalence, comorbidity, and risk factors.

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Department of Psychiatry, The University of Iowa Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine, Iowa City, Iowa 52242, USA.



Veterans of the first Gulf War have higher rates of medical and psychiatric symptoms than nondeployed military personnel.


To assess the prevalence of and risk factors for current anxiety disorders in Gulf War veterans, we administered a structured telephone interview to a population-based sample of 4886 military personnel from Iowa at enlistment. Participants were randomly drawn from Gulf War regular military, Gulf War National Guard/ Reserve, non-Gulf War regular military, and non-Gulf War National Guard/Reserve. Medical and psychiatric conditions were assessed through standardized interviews and questionnaires in 3695 subjects (76% participation). Risk factors were assessed using multivariate logistic regression models.


Veterans of the first Gulf War reported a markedly higher prevalence of current anxiety disorders than nondeployed military personnel (5.9% vs. 2.8%; odds ratio = 2.1; 95% confidence interval = 1.3-3.1), and their anxiety disorders are associated with co-occurring psychiatric disorders. Posttraumatic stress disorder, panic disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder were each present at rates nearly twice expected. In our multivariate model, predeployment psychiatric treatment and predeployment diagnoses (posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, or anxiety) were independently associated with current anxiety disorder. Participation in Gulf War combat was independently associated with current posttraumatic stress disorder, panic disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder.


Current anxiety disorders are relatively frequent in a military population and are more common among Gulf War veterans than nondeployed military personnel. Predeployment psychiatric difficulties are robustly associated with the development of anxiety. Healthcare providers and policymakers need to consider panic disorder and generalized anxiety disorder, in addition to posttraumatic stress disorder, to ensure their proper assessment, treatment, and prevention in veteran populations.

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