Bulk of US airwomen in Iraq suffering ill effects of war

August 15th, 2008 - 12:19 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Aug 15 (IANS) More than 80 percent of US airwomen deployed in Iraq and elsewhere suffered from recurring fatigue, fever, hair loss and difficulty in concentrating, according to a Michigan University study. The pattern of health problems reported by 1,114 women surveyed in 2006 and 2007 is similar to many symptoms of the Gulf War in 1991.

“It is possible that some unknown environmental factor is the cause of current health problems and of Gulf War Syndrome,” said Michigan University researcher Penny Pierce.

“But it is also possible that these symptoms result from the stress of military deployment, especially prolonged and multiple deployments.”

Pierce and her colleagues conducted a similar study of women veterans in 1992 to assess the impact of deployment and combat exposure on physical and mental health.

An associate professor at the university School of Nursing, Pierce is also a colonel in the air force reserve programme.

The airwomen surveyed by phone and through mailed questionnaires were drawn from a stratified, random sample and deployed at least once since March 2003 during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The median age of participants was 36 years, and 45 percent were married. About 36 percent had a dependent child at the time they were sent overseas. About 70 percent were white.

Asked if they experienced any of a list of symptoms persistently in the past year, 89 percent of those surveyed reported suffering from fatigue, 85 percent from difficulty concentrating, 83 percent from fever, and 83 percent from hair loss.

In addition, 35 percent reported suffering from muscle pain and stiffness, 29 percent from irritability, 26 percent from loss of energy and 25 percent from headaches.

These findings were presented Thursday in Boston at the American Psychological Association annual meeting.

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