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Mental Health in Spouses of US Gulf War Veterans

Research Paper Title

Mental health in spouses of U.S. Gulf War veterans.


Veterans' spouses are at risk for mental distress and substance use.


The researchers examined long term psychological functioning in spouses from a national cohort of 1991 Gulf War era veterans.


From clinical interviews, spouses of deployed veterans (n = 488) did not have a greater prevalence of post-war mental disorders compared to spouses of non-deployed veterans (n = 536); however, in couples that were living together since the war, there was an increased risk of anxiety disorders or any one disorder.

On questionnaires, the impact varied but was most consistently observed in more severe depression and greater functional impairment in spouses of deployed compared to non-deployed veterans.

If a veteran developed post-war anxious/depressive disorders or any one mental disorder, the matched spouse was more likely to develop post-war anxious/depressive disorders or any one mental disorder, respectively.

Veteran combat exposure did not similarly increase the risk of spouse post-war mental disorders. Greater spouse self-reported symptomatology was observed in spouses of veterans with anxious/depressive disorders even when controlling for deployment.


In summary, the war conferred greater risk for spouse mental disorders and distress for spouses of veterans with mental health disorders, with some increased risk for spouses of deployed veterans, especially in couples together since the war.


Toomey, R., Alpern, R., Reda, D.J., Baker, D.G., Vasterling, J.J., Blanchard, M. & Eisen, S.A. (2019) Mental health in spouses of U.S. Gulf War veterans. Psychiatry Research. 275, pp.287-295. doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2019.03.043. Epub 2019 Mar 27.