Although US soldiers who fought in the Vietnam War and others in armies abroad who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder were found to be more likely to be involved in criminal activity and suffer a premature death, this is not relevant to Israel Defense Forces veterans.
This was discovered by Dr. Leah Fostick of Ariel University’s communications department and published recently in the journals Depression and Anxiety and European Neuropsychopharmacology. Fostick followed up IDF veterans who developed PTSD as a result of their battlefield experience; their symptoms included nightmares, recurring flashbacks, avoidance or numbing of memories of the event, and hyperarousal. Then she compared them with counterparts from other countries who were subjected to such experiences and suffered such symptoms.
Part of the reason for the difference, Fostick explained, is due to the fact that IDF is a “citizens’ army” and soldiers come from a wide variety of demographic backgrounds, while many soldiers around the world come from a smaller percentage of the community - especially from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. In addition, IDF field and combat units that typically have a higher rate of PTSD sufferers are considered elite by many including those from higher socioeconomic backgrounds.
The study was conducted on 2,235 Israeli veterans recognized by the rehabilitation division of the Defense Ministry as having PTSD. The percentage of those in the study exposed to major trauma was 80 percent. The Israeli data were compared with a control group of the same size from foreign armies.
Fostick said that IDF soldiers who developed PTSD showed only a slightly higher tendency towards criminal offenses than the general population. There was no increase, however, in the likelihood that an Israeli soldier would abuse alcohol or drugs based on whether or not they suffered PTSD as a result of military service.
The mortality rates of IDF soldiers who suffered from PTSD was also similar to those who did not develop such symptoms after fighting on the battlefield, she added.