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Am J Psychiatry. 1995 Apr;152(4):516-22.

A 50-year prospective study of the psychological sequelae of World War II combat.

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  • 1Division of Psychiatry, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, MA 02115.



The authors took advantage of a 50-year prospective study of World War II veterans to examine the predictors and correlates of combat exposure, symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and trait neuroticism.


The subjects were 107 veterans who had been extensively studied before and immediately after serving overseas in World War II. All served as members of the study until the present time, and 91 completed questionnaires of both PTSD symptoms and neuroticism.


In this study group, variables associated with positive psychosocial health in adolescence and at age 65 predicted combat exposure. Combat exposure and number of physiological symptoms during combat stress--but not during civilian stress--predicted symptoms of PTSD in 1946 and 1988. Combat exposure also predicted early death and study attrition. Psychosocial vulnerability in adolescence and at age 65 and physiological symptoms during civilian stress--but not during combat stress--predicted trait neuroticism at age 65.


Combat exposure predicted symptoms of PTSD but not nonspecific measures of psychopathology. Premorbid vulnerability predicted subsequent psychopathology but not symptoms of PTSD.

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