Contrasting the impacts of combat and humanitarian assistance/disaster relief missions on the mental health of military service members
Cunha, Jesse M.
Burke, Zachary R.
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We study the differential impacts of combat and humanitarian assistance/disaster relief (HA/DR) missions on the mental health of U.S. Marine Corps members. The deployment experiences of any individual Marine are plausibly random conditional on the observable characteristics which are used to assign Marines into units. Leveraging this exogenous variation, we compare the incidence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and suicide deaths among Marines who deployed to either Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF) or HA/DR missions between 2001 and 2011. We find that the hazard of PTSD is close to eight times higher among Marines returning from OEF/OIF compared to those never deployed, and just 1.33 times higher among those returning from HA/DR (and never participated in OEF/OIF). Those returning from OEF/OIF missions are 1.81 times more likely than those never deployed to die by suicide when they were still active duty, and the hazard increases to almost 3 after they have left the military. In contrast, we find no difference in the hazards of suicide death between those that deployed to only HA/DR missions and non-deployed Marines.
The article of record as published may be found at http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10242694.2017.1349365
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