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Some questionnaire studies have shown increased mental health problems, including probable posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), in soldiers deployed to Iraq.
To test prospectively whether such problems change over time and whether questionnaires provide accurate estimates of deployment-related PTSD compared with a clinical interview.
Dutch infantry troops from three cohorts completed questionnaires before deployment to Iraq (n=479), and about 5 months (n=382, 80%) and 15 months (n=331, 69%) thereafter. Post-traumatic stress disorder was evaluated by questionnaire and clinical interview.
There were no group changes for general distress symptoms. The rates of PTSD for each cohort were 21, 4 and 6% based on questionnaires at 5 months. The deployment-related rates of PTSD based on the clinical interview were 4, 3 and 3%.
There was a specific effect of deployment on mental health for a small minority. Questionnaires eliciting stress symptoms gave substantial overestimations of the rate of PTSD.
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