By Damien McElroy, Foreign Affairs Correspondent
Last Updated: 3:26am BST 18/04/2008
The psychological toll of America's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has touched one in five servicemen and its consequences will be long-lasting, a study suggested yesterday.
The Rand Corporation, a leading research operation, said that 320,000 soldiers suffered brain injuries on the battlefield, while more than 300,000 suffered mental disorders on returning home.
The report said that US veterans are incurring "invisible wounds" of war, most notably traumatic brain injury. A survey of 1,926 soldiers represented a statistically significant sample of the 1.6 million troops sent to Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001, Rand said.
Roadside bombs were responsible for a vast number of injuries never fully diagnosed or treated in modern warfare, according to the report's authors.
It found that 19.5 per cent of the returning soldiers were reported to have experienced a "probable brain injury" during deployment but only 57 per cent of those had seen a doctor about the incident.
The report added there was a similar picture of mental health problems: "Among those who met diagnostic criteria for post traumatic stress disorder or major depression, only 53 percent had seen a physician or mental health provider to seek help for a mental health problem in the past 12 months."
Rand called for stronger support for veterans from the military's medical hierarchy. "There is a major health crisis facing those men and women who have served our nation in Iraq and Afghanistan," said Terri Tanielian, the lead researcher.
"Unless they receive appropriate and effective care for these mental health conditions, there will be long-term consequences for them and for the nation. Unfortunately, we found there are many barriers preventing them from getting the high-quality treatment they need.
Researchers predicted that 300,000 servicemen, or 18.5 per cent of those sent to fight, would suffer long-term depression or other mental health conditions.