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Mental Health Ills Now Top Cause of Hospital Visits in U.S. Military

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In 2006 and 2008, pregnancy accounted for the most hospitalizations among members of the U.S. military, with mental-health ailments ranked second. In 2010, those two swapped places: mental-health problems were the No. 1 cause of hospital stays for members of the U.S. military last year. “In contrast to recent prior years, in 2010 there were more hospitalizations for mental disorders than for any other major category of illnesses or injuries,” notes a Pentagon report released Friday. “Adjustment reactions (including posttraumatic stress disorder) and episodic mood disorders caused more hospitalizations among active component members than any other specific conditions; together, these two conditions accounted for 15 percent and 17 percent of all hospitalizations of males and females (excluding pregnancy and childbirth-related), respectively.”

Since 2006, the number of hospitalizations for mental-health disorders has grown by more than 50% due to “repeated deployments and prolonged exposures to combat stresses” as well as better screening and decreased stigma surrounding such conditions, the study says. While more than 6,000 troops were injured accidentally last year, more than 1,100 were injured “intentionally” — 845 on the battlefield, and 304 self-inflicted.

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