Chronic morbidity of former prisoners of war and other Australian veterans.Med J Aust 1991; 155(10):705-7, 710-2MJ
This report is the first summary article from a review of studies on long-term morbidity associated with war service or internment, commissioned by the Sir Edward Dunlop Medical Research Foundation.
The Medlars database, from 1966 to the present, under the terms military personnel, veterans, veterans' disability claims, combat disorders and prisoners (matched against war); databases of the Department of Veterans' Affairs (Victoria) and the Central Library, Commonwealth Department of Defence, using the term "prisoner of war"; and the microfiche listings of the Department of Veterans' Affairs, under "prisoner of war" and "repatriation". Only studies in English or French were reviewed, reaching a total of 172.
Forty-eight studies are considered in the present summary, presenting the most significant evidence about long-term morbidity attributable to war-time experiences. Studies concerning Australian veterans are emphasised.
Studies considered valid were summarised for an annotated bibliography, but only reports of major public health significance are reviewed here.
The review confirms that strongyloidiasis, peptic ulcer, anxiety states, depression and hepatitis B are more prevalent in former prisoners of war than in relevant comparison groups. We have not identified further diagnoses that should be attributed specifically to war-time exposures. Attribution of long-term neurological and musculoskeletal disorders to war-time exposures remains uncertain.
Former prisoners of war and veterans constitute a population of survivors highly selected by the rigours of war and imprisonment. Occurrence of the five conditions listed above may be reasonably attributed to war-time exposure. We recommend further research on ageing (including neurological, visual, hearing and musculoskeletal disability), family disruption and rehabilitation strategies in these groups.