Reconciling disparate prevalence rates of PTSD in large samples of US male Vietnam veterans and their controls

William W. Thompson, Irving I. Gottesman, Christine Zalewski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background: Two large independent studies funded by the US government have assessed the impact of the Vietnam War on the prevalence of PTSD in US veterans. The National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study (NVVRS) estimated the current PTSD prevalence to be 15.2% while the Vietnam Experience Study (VES) estimated the prevalence to be 2.2%. We compared alternative criteria for estimating the prevalence of PTSD using the NVVRS and VES public use data sets collected more than 10 years after the United States withdrew troops from Vietnam. Methods: We applied uniform diagnostic procedure to the male veterans from the NVVRS and VES to estimate PTSD prevalences based on varying criteria including one-month and lifetime prevalence estimates, combat and non-combat prevalence estimates, and prevalence estimates using both single and multiple indicator models. Results: Using a narrow and specific set of criteria. we derived current prevalence estimates for combat-related PTSD of 2.5% and 2.9% for the VES and the NVVRS, respectively. Using a more broad and sensitive set of criteria, we derived current prevalence estimates for combat-related PTSD of 12.2% and 15.8% for the VES and NVVRS, respectively. Conclusion: When comparable methds were applied to available data we reconciled disparate results and estimated similar current prevalences for both narrow and broad definitions of combat-related diagnoses of PTSD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number19
JournalBMC Psychiatry
Volume6
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2 2006

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