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EMBARGO: This news release is embargoed until 8:30 a.m. CST Wed. Jan. 8, 1997

UI study finds Gulf War vets have higher rate of illness than other military personnel; cognitive problems are more than double that of veterans who served outside the Gulf

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- A University of Iowa study finds that military personnel who served in the Persian Gulf War have a greater prevalence of self-reported medical and psychiatric conditions than those serving elsewhere in the military during the same time, according to an article in the Jan. 15 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

Researchers in the Iowa Persian Gulf War Study developed a telephone survey to study a random sample of military personnel who listed Iowa as home. Their task was to determine the frequency and type of health complaints reported by veterans serving in the Gulf War region and to compare these rates of illnesses with those military personnel serving outside the Gulf War region.

Dr. David A. Schwartz, professor of internal medicine in the UI College of Medicine and the group's principal investigator, released the survey findings of 3,696 subjects at a news conference today in Washington, D.C.
"Compared with non-Persian Gulf War military personnel, Persian Gulf War military personnel reported an 11 percent higher prevalence of symptoms of cognitive dysfunction; a nine percent higher prevalence of symptoms of fibromyalgia; a six percent higher prevalence of symptoms of depression; a three percent higher prevalence of symptoms of anxiety disorder; a two percent higher prevalence of symptoms of alcohol abuse, bronchitis and asthma; a one percent increase in post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic fatigue; and an increase in the prevalence of sexual discomfort in both the respondent and the female partner of the respondent," Schwartz said.
A total of 14.7 percent of Persian Gulf War military personnel versus 6.6 percent of non-Persian Gulf War military personnel had symptoms of two or more medical and psychiatric conditions.

Persian Gulf War interviewees were asked about known exposures during the war. The researchers found that most of the self-reported Persian Gulf War exposures are significantly related to many of the medical and psychiatric conditions.

They also found that being involved in the Persian Gulf War significantly affected the self-reported assessment of quality of life and functional health. For instance, Persian Gulf War veterans reported significantly lower measures of social functioning, mental health and physical functioning. In fact, among Persian Gulf War military personnel, the self-reported medical and psychiatric conditions were significantly related to interference with social activities and self-reports of decreased performance at work. These findings suggest that the Persian Gulf conflict and the medical conditions reported by the Persian Gulf military personnel substantially impair their daily activities.

Finally, among Persian Gulf War veterans, researchers found relatively few differences between the frequency of medical and psychiatric conditions reported by the national guard and reservists versus those reported by regular military. The national guard and reserve study group reported only a one percent increase in the prevalence of symptoms of chronic fatigue and a four percent increase in symptoms of alcohol abuse. These findings suggest that their results apply to all military personnel involved in the Persian Gulf conflict, regardless of the type of military service.

The researchers say that the most important limitation to the research is that the medical and psychiatric conditions as well as the exposure data are based exclusively in self-reported information and have not been fully characterized by objective physical examination or laboratory findings.

The UI researchers conducted the study in cooperation with the Iowa Department of Public Health and the federal Centers for Disease Control.