A systematic review of post-deployment injury-related mortality among military personnel deployed to conflict zones

Knapik, Joseph J.; Marin, Roberto E.; Grier, Tyson L.; Jones, Bruce H.
January 2009
BMC Public Health;2009, Vol. 9 Issue 1, p231
Academic Journal
Background: This paper reports on a systematic review of the literature on the post-conflict injury-related mortality of service members who deployed to conflict zones. Methods: Literature databases, reference lists of articles, agencies, investigators, and other sources were examined to find studies comparing injury-related mortality of military veterans who had served in conflict zones with that of contemporary veterans who had not served in conflict zones. Injury-related mortality was defined as a cause of death indicated by International Classification of Diseases E-codes E800 to E999 (external causes) or subgroupings within this range of codes. Results: Twenty studies met the review criteria; all involved veterans serving during either the Vietnam or Persian Gulf conflict. Meta-analysis indicated that, compared with non-conflict-zone veterans, injury-related mortality was elevated for veterans serving in Vietnam (summary mortality rate ratio (SMRR) = 1.26, 95% confidence interval (95%CI) = 1.08-1.46) during 9 to 18 years of follow-up. Similarly, injury-related mortality was elevated for veterans serving in the Persian Gulf War (SMRR = 1.26, 95%CI = 1.16-1.37) during 3 to 8 years of follow-up. Much of the excess mortality among conflict-zone veterans was associated with motor vehicle events. The excess mortality decreased over time. Hypotheses to account for the excess mortality in conflict-zone veterans included post-traumatic stress, coping behaviors such as substance abuse, ill-defined diseases and symptoms, lower survivability in injury events due to conflict-zone comorbidities, altered perceptions of risk, and/or selection processes leading to the deployment of individuals who were risk-takers. Conclusion: Further research on the etiology of the excess mortality in conflict-zone veterans is warranted to develop appropriate interventions.


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