Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Statistics for Veterans - NerdWallet

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Statistics for Veterans

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and the Disproportionate Effect it Has on Veterans

Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, will affect millions of Americans this year–and PTSD statistics are more sobering than you might imagine. What’s worse, it affects populations like assault survivors and military service members and veterans the most. Onset of PTSD symptoms usually occurs 1-3 months after experiencing a traumatic event, such as combat violence or sexual assault. For PTSD to be diagnosed, three types of symptoms must have occurred within the span of a month.

Post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms are categorized into sets. The first type of symptoms are called re-experiencing symptoms, and include flashbacks, nightmares and frightening thoughts. The second category is avoidance symptoms, and includes staying away from places, losing interest in enjoyable activities, and feeling guilt, numbness or depression. The last set of symptoms is called hyper-arousal symptoms, and includes feeling tense, scaring easily, having outbursts and difficulty sleeping. Here is a look at PTSD statistics at-a-glance.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in the Military

PTSD is often considered a soldier’s illness, since those who have served in combat are much more likely to develop it. Even so, there are no differences between military and civilians when it comes to seeking and receiving adequate treatment.

The Vietnam War

Having been over since April 1975, this war sparked a surge in military research and ultimately led to the first diagnoses of PTSD in 1980. Researchers and surveyors are still studying the aftereffects of the Vietnam War.

Minimum percentage of Vietnam veterans who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder at some point.

Percentage of PTSD-diagnosed Vietnam veterans currently suffering at least moderate impairment, 30+ years after combat.

Recent Wars—Afghanistan and Iraq

Research is still being done on more recent wars, but preliminary data shows that PTSD incidences are lower for these service members. Still, symptoms may begin many years after combat is over, so it might be too soon to tell.

2.8 million
Number of American veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.

Estimated percentage of Afghanistan and Iraq war veterans currently with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Number of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans diagnosed with PTSD in 2013.

Highest estimated number of Afghanistan and Iraq war veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder —diagnosed and undiagnosed.

Number of deployed Iraq and Afghanistan veterans diagnosed with PTSD since 2002, as of January 10, 2014.

Average cost for first year of treatment for a recent veteran with PTSD.

85.9 million
Dollars spent treating recent veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder  during first year of diagnosis.

Percentage of Iraq and Afghanistan vets with PTSD who served in the Army.

Percentage of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans with alcohol abuse issues.


Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in the General Population

PTSD isn’t exclusive to the military, and in fact some populations are more susceptible to PTSD symptoms. Individuals with other mental illnesses are at higher risk. Additionally, genes may play a role, and women are twice as likely to develop PTSD than men. This may be due to an increased risk of experiencing domestic violence. But more research is needed to know for sure.

Percentage of men who experience at least one traumatic event in life.

Percentage of women who experience at least one traumatic event.

Estimated percentage of rape survivors who have PTSD symptoms at some point.

5.2 million
Number of adults in the U.S. who will have some form of PTSD this year.

Percentage of Americans with post-traumatic stress disorder who ever seek treatment.

Percentage of Americans with PTSD receiving minimally adequate treatment.



Science: The Psychological Risks of Vietnam for U.S. Veterans: A Revisit with New Data and Methods

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Congressional Research Service

Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry

Congressional Budget Office: The Veterans Health Administration’s Treatment of PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury Among Recent Combat Veterans

Homeland Security Digital Library

The Nebraska Department of Veterans’ Affairs

PTSD Alliance

National Institute of Mental Health
Soldier photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

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