Chronic multisymptom illness among female veterans deployed to iraq and afghanistan

Mohanty AF1, Muthukutty A, Carter ME, Palmer MN, Judd J, Helmer D, McAndrew LM, Garvin JH, Samore MH, Gundlapalli AV. Med Care. 2015 Apr;53(4 Suppl 1):S143-8. doi: 10.1097/MLR.0000000000000314.
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1*Informatics, Decision Enhancement, and Surveillance (IDEAS) Center, VA Salt Lake City Health Care System, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Utah School of Medicine †Department of Biomedical Informatics, University of Utah School of Medicine, Salt Lake City, UT ‡Department of Veteran Affairs, War Related Illness and Injury Study Center, New Jersey Health Care System, East Orange, NJ §Department of Education and Counseling Psychology, University of Albany, Albany, NY.


BACKGROUND: Chronic multisymptom illness (CMI) may be more prevalent among female Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation New Dawn (OEF/OIF/OND) deployed Veterans due to deployment-related experiences.

OBJECTIVES: To investigate CMI-related diagnoses among female OEF/OIF/OND Veterans.

RESEARCH DESIGN: We estimated the prevalence of the International Classification of Disease-9th edition-Clinical Modification coded CMI-related diagnoses of chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia (FM), and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) among female OEF/OIF/OND Veterans with Veterans Health Administration (VHA) visits, FY2002-2012 (n=78,435). We described the characteristics of female Veterans with and without CMI-related diagnoses and VHA settings of first CMI-related diagnoses.

RESULTS: The prevalence of CMI-related diagnoses among female OEF/OIF/OND Veterans was 6397 (8.2%), over twice as high as the prevalence 95,424 (3.9%) among the totality of female Veterans currently accessing VHA (P<0.01). There were statistically significant differences in age, education, marital status, military component, service branch, and proportions of those with depression and/or post-traumatic stress disorder diagnoses across females with and without CMI-related diagnoses. Diagnoses were mainly from primary care, women's health, and physical medicine and rehabilitation clinics.

CONCLUSIONS: CMI-related diagnoses were more prevalent among female OEF/OIF/OND Veterans compared with all female Veterans who currently access VHA. Future studies of the role of mental health diagnoses as confounders or mediators of the association of OEF/OIF/OND deployment and CMI are warranted. These and other factors associated with CMI may provide a basis for enhanced screening to facilitate recognition of these conditions. Further work should evaluate models of care and healthcare utilization related to CMI in female Veterans.

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