This Just In... War is Hell!!

Mike’s Civil War Musing’s talks about the buzz in the media on a study entitled “Physical and Mental Health Cost of Traumatic War Experiences Among Civil War Veterans,” that was published in the February issue of Archives of General Psychiatry. The complete article is available download from the website for a small cost. Basically the article concludes “it is likely that the deleterious health effects seen in war conducted more than 130 years ago are applicable to the health and well being of soldiers fighting wars in the 21st century.”

I was intrigued by the some of the conclusions on the relationship between the causality rate in Civil War Companies and the increased incidence (51%) of post war physician-diagnosed cardiac, GI and nervous disease. According to the study “percentage of the company killed is likely a powerful variable because it serves as a proxy for various traumatic stressors, such a witnessing death or dismemberment, handling dead bodies, traumatic loss of comrades, realizing one’s one imminent death, killing others and being helpless to prevent other’s death.” I would like to see how this conclusion works out to individual regiments.

Some if the news accounts carry a statement by Eric T. Dean author of Shook Over Hell: Post-Traumatic Stress, Vietnam, and the Civil War, who used the same records in his research, but said he is skeptical that the “19th-century medical records could be made standard enough for the researchers' statistical analysis to be valid.”

I think regardless of the statistical revelations of this study, Dean’s book and other studies the conclusion should be pretty clear that war is hell and and it is hell that does not end when the fighting stops.


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