August 15, 2008

Iraq Deployment Takes Physical Toll

A study of U.S. Air Force women deployed in Iraq and other areas found 80 percent suffer fatigue, fever, hair loss and difficulty focusing, researchers said.

University of Michigan researchers said the pattern of health problems reported by 1,114 women surveyed in 2006 and 2007 is similar to many symptoms of Gulf War Syndrome -- reported by veterans of the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

"It's possible that some unknown environmental factor is the cause of current health problems and of Gulf War Syndrome," University of Michigan researcher Penny Pierce said in a statement. "But it is also possible that these symptoms result from the stress of military deployment, especially prolonged and multiple deployments."

The Air Force women, deployed at least once since March 2003 during Operation Iraqi Freedom, were surveyed by telephone and mailed questionnaires. Half served in the theater of war and half served elsewhere; half had children under the age of 18 living at home; half were active duty, one-quarter in the reserves and one-quarter in the Air National Guard.

Those in the reserve and guard reported more physical symptoms than active duty personnel, while enlisted women reported more health problems than officers.

The findings were presented at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association in Boston.