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Contractors Working in Conflict Zones Suffer from PTSD

Update Date: Dec 10, 2013 10:49 AM EST

A new study conducted by the nonprofit research organization, RAND Corporation found that posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) does not only affect military personnel who enter warzones in other countries. The researchers reported that PTSD can greatly affect contractors who are also sent over with military personnel to work in countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq and other dangerous, conflict areas.

"Contractors are often referred to ... as a 'shadow force' operating below the radar or in the shadows of their military counterparts," the RAND authors wrote reported by USA Today.

For this study, the researchers interviewed 660 contractors via an online survey that promised anonymity. The contractors had all been sent to work in these conflict zones at least once between the beginning of 2011 and early 2013. The researchers discovered that 25 percent of the people could be diagnosed with PTSD and 18 percent of the people fit the criteria for depression. Roughly half of the surveyed people reported alcohol misuse.

"Given the extensive use of contractors in conflict areas in recent years, these findings highlight a significant but often overlooked group of people struggling with the after-effects of working in a war zone," study co-author Molly Dunigan, a political scientist at RAND, said reported by HealthDay.

The researchers reported that despite having symptoms of PTSD and or depression, contractors appear to be undertreated for their conditions. The researchers stated that these people get very little help before and after their deployment. Only 28 percent of people with PTSD and 34 percent of people with depression sought and received medical care. However, the majority of the contractors have health insurance. Aside from mental disorders, the contractors reported several physical health problems, such as traumatic brain injuries, respiratory complication, hearing issues and back pain.

61 percent of the surveyed contractors were from the United States, 24 percent were from the United Kingdom and the rest were from Australia, South Africa, New Zealand and other countries. The researchers reported that PTSD rates for Americans were particularly high.

The study can be accessed here.

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