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Friday, 13 September, 2002, 10:36 GMT 11:36 UK
Gulf War syndrome 'not in the mind'
Many Gulf War veterans say they have the syndrome
The symptoms associated with Gulf War syndrome cannot be attributed to mental illness, a study suggests.

Researchers in the UK said veterans of the 1990 Gulf War were no more likely to suffer from depression, post-traumatic stress or anxiety than soldiers who had served in other recent conflicts.

They suggested symptoms like nausea, fever, insomnia and fatigue were not linked to psychiatric problems.


There must be a public inquiry into the cover up of Gulf War syndrome

Shaun Rusling, NGVFA
Gulf War veterans welcomed the findings but said they highlighted the need for a public inquiry into the syndrome.

Dr Khalida Ismail and colleagues at the Gulf War Illness Research Unit in London based their findings on a study of more than 200 Gulf War veterans and more than 130 British soldiers who had served in Bosnia or other campaigns.

The study, which was funded by the US Department of Defense, aimed to compare psychiatric disorders among those who had served in the Gulf and those who had not.

Psychiatric disorders

The researchers found that almost one in four Gulf War veterans who say they have physical disabilities had a formal psychiatric disorder. This includes depression, anxiety or alcohol-related problems.

A similar proportion of soldiers who had not served in the Gulf but also reported physical difficulties also had psychiatric disorders.

Among those Gulf War veterans who were not disabled the rate of psychiatric disorders was just one in eight.

Dr Ismail
Dr Ismail is continuing her studies into the syndrome
The study also showed that the rate of post-traumatic stress disorder was similar for all groups of soldiers irrespective of where they had served.

Writing in the British Medical Journal, the authors said: "Psychiatric disorders do not fully explain self-reported ill health in Gulf veterans - alternative explanations for persistent ill health in Gulf veterans are needed."

Speaking to the BBC, Dr Ismail said: "What we have done is answered one piece of the jigsaw. There are still questions as to what is the nature of ill health in Gulf War veterans."

Her team are now examining whether their symptoms can be explained by genetics or their immune systems.

The first stage of the project, published in January 1999, showed that Gulf War veterans were twice as likely to report sick than soldiers who had been posted to Bosnia and three times more likely to do so than those who had been posted to other areas.

Public inquiry

The National Gulf Veterans & Families Association (NGVFA) said the findings highlighted the need for more research.

However, its chairman Shaun Rusling criticised the fact that none of the association's 2,500 members had been invited to participate in the study.

But he added: "We here feel that on the eve of a second Gulf War that there must be a public inquiry into the cover up of Gulf War syndrome, and the proper medical care given to those who fought 11 years ago.

"Our troops who will be exposed to the same as we were 11 years ago need to know that should they be ill or injured that they will get the best medical care and proper pensions."

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