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"Our findings suggest that treatment-seeking veterans with PTSD, including young veterans and women, are dying from largely preventable causes compared with the general population," lead investigator Dr. Jenna Forehand said in a journal news release.
"PTSD is therefore a major public health concern and a priority for preventive health care," she added. Forehand is a researcher with the National Center for Patient Safety at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in White River Junction, Vt.
Her team looked at the top causes of death among 491,000 veterans who began PTSD treatment at V.A. medical centers between 2008 and 2013.
Of those, 5,215 (1%) died within the first year of care, a rate 5% higher than in the general population.
Among accident victims, more than half died of poisoning. Researchers said that could include some misclassified suicides.
They noted that advances in treatment have improved survival from combat injuries, but PTSD, pain disorders and opioid use are common among survivors.
"Future studies should develop preventive interventions that target PTSD and co-morbid depression, pain disorder, and substance use to lessen the risk of suicide, accidental poisoning, and viral hepatitis in veterans with PTSD," Forehand said.
-- Robert Preidt
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