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Mental health disorders among troops increased 65 percent since 2000

Mental health disorders in active-duty troops increased 65 percent since 2000, according to a report released this week by the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center.

The report looked at a 12-year period between 2000 and 2011 and found that more than 936,000 service members had been diagnosed with at least one mental disorder. Of those diagnoses, about 85 percent were cases of adjustment disorders, depression, alcohol abuse and anxiety, among other conditions.


Between 2003 and 2008, the rate of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) increased nearly sixfold; by 2011, there were more than 100,000 diagnoses. The report, however, did not evaluate mental disorders in relationship to deployments.

 

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Previous studies have found a link between deployment and increased rates of PTSD. In a 2008 report, researchers found that Marines who had no pre-deployment mental disorder and served in Iraq and Afghanistan were likely to have lower rates of all types of mental disorders except PTSD when compared to Marines who had not deployed for combat. Other studies have shown greater rates of PTSD and anxiety disorders in service members who had deployed a second or third time.

Related: Mental health group says combat PTSD deserves Purple Heart

This week's analysis, published in the June 2012 Medical Surveillance Monthly Report, showed that nearly 70 percent of all mental health problems were related to "life circumstances," a category that includes deployment, bereavement and relationships. Over the 12-year period, rates of mental illness related to life circumstances remained stable until 2003 and peaked in 2005. The rates declined and then increased again in 2009.

Women, service members 20 and younger and healthcare workers were the most vulnerable groups, according to the report. Rates of some mental disorders among women were more than twice as high than for men; rates of mental illness for many diagnoses were highest among those 20 and younger; and healthcare workers had relatively high rates of mental illness, particularly for PTSD.

Related: Women in the infantry? Bad idea, female Marine officer says

The report, which was based on medical records of active-duty service members, said the rates of mental disorders and problems were likely "underestimates" if individuals didn't seek or receive care or were improperly diagnosed.

"These findings reinforce previous reports that have documented a rise in demand for mental health services in the active component force and suggest that continued focus on detection and treatment for mental health issues is warranted," the report said.

Rebecca Ruiz is a reporter at msnbc.com and a 2011-2012 Rosalynn Carter Mental Health Journalism Fellow. Follow her on Twitter here.

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