Effect of Dwell Time on the Mental Health of U.S. Military Personnel with Multiple Combat Tours
NAVAL HEALTH RESEARCH CENTER SAN DIEGO CA
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Background Operation Iraqi Freedom OIF required the use of military personnel for multiple combat deployments. Dwell time, or the period between deployments, may confer a protective effect against deployment-related mental health disorders, such as posttraumatic stress disorder PTSD. Methods U.S. Marine Corps personnel who deployed in support of OIF once and twice were identified from electronic military deployment records. New-onset mental health diagnoses ICD-9-CM 290319, including PTSD, were identified from inpatient and outpatient medical databases. For those with two deployments, dwell-to-deployment ratio DDR was calculated as the length of time between deployments divided by the length of first deployment. Results Overall, rates of PTSD were higher among Marines with two deployments, though there was no similar association with other mental health disorders. Among those with two deployments, increased DDR was associated with lower rates of PTSD and other mental health disorders after adjusting for age and military rank. Conclusions The present study provides evidence that longer dwell time between deployments may protect against PTSD and other postdeployment mental disorders. Because current operational tempo necessitates multiple deployments, future research should focus on the role of dwell time in adverse health outcomes, and the feasibility and impact of future dwelltime policies.
- Personnel Management and Labor Relations
- Military Forces and Organizations
- Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics