War, earlier trauma and PTSD in troops

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a condition that can affect soldiers who have experienced war, but a new study has found working in such an environment may not be the decisive factor in developing the symptoms of PTSD. Experts from the Department of Psychology and Behavioural Sciences at Aarhus University in Denmark found typically, it is not the experience of war that triggers PTSD.

Leading the study, Professor Dorthe Berntsen interviewed 746 military personnel before, during and after their posting to Afghanistan and found the individuals' lifetime experiences had a bearing if they were diagnosed with PTSD, with some experiencing trauma before they were sent to the front line.

"War in itself is not the crucial factor in making soldiers ill. It can be a contributing factor, but it is not the decisive factor," Prof Bernsten explained.

Indeed, the experiences of war do not cause negative effects in all soldiers, with the majority being proving resilient - forming the largest of three categories of soldiers. Others felt better as a result of their posting, while around five per cent found their mental state deteriorated while on tour.

However, the British Chartered Psychologist Dr Patrick Tissington suggests caution about these findings:

"Highly respected charities such as Combat Stress report that there is a woeful shortfall in post-service care and I would hate to see this sort of finding being used to justify further cuts in expenditure. I trust that those involved in allocating budgets to treatment of PTSD will look very carefully at the detail of this study before coming to conclusions."