What Does Data Show About PTSD In Veterans?

Post-traumatic stress disorder refers to a mental health condition in people who have experienced or through a deadly or traumatic event. Incidents like road accidents, natural disasters, assault, or physical or mental abuse, and so on can cause PTSD. 

If we go by the words of the American Psychiatric Association and health professionals, PTSD symptoms can be divided into four main categories:

  • Intrusive Thoughts: unconsciously getting memories, nightmares, flashbacks about the event.
  • Avoiding Reminders: staying away from people, activities, etc. that may remind them of the incident.
  • Negative Thoughts and Feelings: thinking of trauma, fear, anger, shame, isolation, and so on.
  • Arousal and Reactive Symptoms: frequent outbursts, aloof behavior, insomnia, lack of focus, etc.


While these symptoms might be visible after multiple traumatic events, combat experience is one of the most common causes of PTSD. You can find a detailed analysis of the numbers and PTSD rates to get a more transparent image of PTSD in military veterans, their family members, the secondary health conditions associated with it, and available treatments on many websites.

Different research shows various results about how many veterans develop PTSD during their lifetimes. The prevalence of PTSD in veterans can be summarized in a few statistics – 

  • Around 34.8% of veterans suffer from PTSD once in their lives.
  • 3.5% of veterans are diagnosed with PTSD after 12 months of service and 6.8% any time in their life.
  • Almost 90% of veterans experience a traumatic event in their lifetime, with an average of 3.4 traumatic events in soldiers.


However, not only exposure to combat causes PTSD in army professionals. Incidents of sexual assault are also a cause, especially when it comes to female veterans. Women account for nearly 9.4% of the total veteran population, which is estimated to rise up to 16% by 2040.

  • Out of 2583 female veterans in California, 40% reported a sexual assault during their military service, which was the main reason for the arousal of PTSD symptoms.
  • About 23% of women who are enrolled in VA healthcare reported sexual assault during their jobs.
  • Nearly 55% of women and 38% of men experienced sexual abuse while serving the army.


Out of almost half a million veterans alive today, the ones aged between 70-74 constitute the majority. This group is trailed by veterans aged between 65-69 and 75-79, respectively. However, research suggests that younger veterans are more prone to PTSD.

  • Veterans who retired in the mid-1980s had a PTSD rate of 16.9% for combat veterans aged 60 years and above in their entire lives and 5.5% for non-combat veterans.
  • Veterans who retired in the mid-1980s and were below 60 years had a PTSD rate of 22% (combat) and 15.7% (non-combat).


Health Conditions in PTSD – 

There could be a variety of PTSD symptoms that might also be associated with other health conditions. 

Mental & Behavioral Changes

  • In 2012, 22% of veterans diagnosed with PTSD were found to have a dual diagnosis of substance disorder.
  • 33-52.3% of older veterans with PTSD have a dual diagnosis of depression. The risk of having both bipolar disorder and major depression is higher among women veterans.
  • 50.1% of all veterans and 72% of veterans with PTSD have claimed to have at least ‘moderate’ post-traumatic growth associated with their worst traumatic event.


 Cardiovascular Health

  • If a veteran has a history of chest pain, the chance of PTSD increases by 31%. With, PTSD being the main cause resulting in high blood pressure.
  • In comparison to veterans without PTSD, those suffering from PTSD had an 80% higher risk for cerebrovascular disease, 56% higher risk for congestive heart failure, 60% higher risk for peripheral vascular disease, and 82% higher risk for heart attack.


PTSD Treatment – 

Retired veterans with PTSD can seek counseling, and the data shows that counseling helps in curing PTSD.

  • Veterans who were diagnosed with at least one PTSD symptom and underwent public or private counseling registered significant reductions in PTSD symptoms after the first session.
  • Women veterans with PTSD symptoms and depression showed the most significant symptom reductions among all veterans after eight or more counseling sessions.


Younger veterans are more willing to seek PTSD help than older ones.

  • Older veterans aged 80 years and above who are diagnosed with PTSD are least likely to opt for timely mental health treatment.
  • Veterans with multiple mental conditions are more likely to visit a clinician for PTSD treatment.
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