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Aust N Z J Psychiatry. 1998 Feb;32(1):21-31.

Risk factors for posttraumatic stress disorder in Australian Vietnam veterans.

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Department of Community Medicine, University of New South Wales, Australia.



The aims of this paper are to determine the risk factors for combat-related posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and to examine the relative contribution of pre-military factors, pre-trauma psychiatric diagnoses, military factors such as combat posting, and combat and casualty stress exposure.


An epidemiological cohort study using standardised psychiatric, social and health interviews was undertaken with a national random sample of male Australian Army Vietnam veterans. Multivariate logistic regression was used to examine the relative contribution of factors derived from interview and from military records in four categories: pre-enlistment circumstances including home life, education, major life stress; pre-Vietnam psychiatric diagnoses; military experiences before and during Vietnam; and combat and stress experiences.


Of the 128 data items examined, significant associations were found for 39, in addition to combat stress. Pre-enlistment items accounted for about 3% of the deviance towards PTSD diagnosis, pre-enlistment psychiatric diagnosis about 13%, military variables about 7% and combat stress about 18%; all factors together accounted for 42%.


The results confirm that pre-military and military variables make only a small but significant contribution to PTSD either alone or after controlling for combat stress; that psychiatric diagnoses of depression, dysthymia and agoraphobia make strong contributions to PTSD; but that combat stress makes the largest contribution even after controlling for the effects of other variables. Psychiatric diagnoses and combat stress appear to be independent in their effects on PTSD.

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