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A comparison of mental health outcomes in persons entering U.S. military service before and after September 11, 2001


  • This research represents Naval Health Research Center report 11-11, supported by the Department of Defense, under work unit no. 60002. The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Navy, Department of the Army, Department of the Air Force, Department of Defense, Department of Veterans Affairs, or the U.S. Government.

  • We thank Scott L. Seggerman, BS, MS, from the Defense Manpower Data Center, Monterey, CA. We also thank the professionals from the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, especially those from the Military Operational Medicine Research Program, Fort Detrick, MD. We are indebted to the Millennium Cohort Study team and participants, without whom these analyses would not be possible.


It has been hypothesized that those who entered military service in the pre-September 11, 2001 era might have expectations incongruent with their subsequent experiences, increasing the risk for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or other mental disorders. A subset of Millennium Cohort Study participants who joined the military during 1995–1999 was selected and compared with a subset of members who joined the military in 2002 or later. Outcomes included new-onset symptoms of PTSD, depression, panic/anxiety, and alcohol-related problems. Multivariable methods adjusted for differences in demographic and military characteristics. More than 11,000 cohort members were included in the analyses. Those who entered service in the pre-September 11 era had lower odds of new-onset PTSD symptoms (odds ratio [OR] 0.74, 95% CI [0.59, 0.93]) compared with the post-September 11 cohort. There were no statistically significant differences in rates of new-onset symptoms of depression, panic/anxiety, or alcohol-related problems between the groups. The cohort who entered military service in the pre-September 11 era did not experience higher rates of new-onset mental health challenges compared with the cohort who entered service after September 11, 2001. Findings support the concept that the experience of war, and resulting psychological morbidity, is not a function of incongruent expectations.