Long-term development of post-traumatic stress symptoms and associated risk factors in military service members deployed to Afghanistan : Results from the PRISMO 10-year follow-up

Symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can manifest several years after trauma exposure, and may impact everyday life even longer. Military deployment can put soldiers at increased risk for developing PTSD symptoms. Longitudinal evaluations of PTSD symptoms in deployed military personnel are essential for mapping the long-term psychological burden of recent operations on our service members, and may improve current practice in veterans’ mental health care.


The current study examined PTSD symptoms and associated risk factors in a cohort of Dutch Afghanistan veterans 10 years after homecoming. Participants (N = 963) were assessed seven times from predeployment up to 10 years after deployment. Growth mixture modeling was used to identify distinct trajectories of PTSD symptom development.


The probable PTSD prevalence at 10 years after deployment was 8%. Previously identified risk factors like younger age, lower rank, more deployment stressors, and less social support were still relevant 10 years after deployment. Four trajectories of PTSD symptom development were identified: resilient (85%), improved (6%), severely elevated-recovering (2%), and delayed onset (7%). Only the delayed onset group reported increasing symptom levels between 5 and 10 years postdeployment, even though 77% reported seeking help.


This study provides insights into the long-term burden of deployment on the psychological health of military service members. It identifies a group of veterans with further increasing PTSD symptoms that does not seem to improve from currently available mental health support, and underlines the urgent need for developing and implementing alternative treatment opportunities for this group.

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Sija J. van der Wal, Eric Vermetten, and Geuze Elber | 2021
In: European Psychiatry ; ISSN: 0924-9338 | 64 | 1 | e10
Published online: 2020.
Diagnosis, Exposure, Followup Study, Longitudinal Study, Military Personnel, Netherlands, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Psychotrauma, PTSD (en), Veterans
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