Objective: This study investigated the prevalence of incarceration and the association with deployment among veterans of the first Persian Gulf War (GW). Methods: A structured telephone interview of military personnel from Iowa deployed to the Persian Gulf and a comparison sample of nondeployed military personnel was conducted. The interview consisted of validated questions, validated instruments, and investigator-derived questions to assess relevant medical and psychiatric conditions. A total of 4,886 subjects were randomly drawn from one of four study domains, i.e., GW regular military, GW National Guard/Reserve, non-GW regular military, or non-GW National Guard/Reserve. Symptoms of medical conditions, psychiatric disorders, and health care utilization were the main outcome measures. Results: Nearly one-quarter (845 of 3,695 subjects, 22.9%) had been incarcerated at some point before the interview ("ever incarcerated"). Ever incarcerated veterans had a higher frequency of psychiatric and medical comorbidity and higher rates of health care utilization. Ever incarcerated status was associated with male gender, enlisted rank, lower educational levels, low levels of military preparedness, discharge from service, cigarette smoking, antisocial traits, court martial and/or other military discipline, having seen a mental health professional, and having used illegal drugs. GW veterans who participated in combat had a modestly higher risk for incarceration after the GW than did noncombatants (odds ratio, 1.6; 95% confidence interval, 1.0-2.5). Conclusions: Military recruits with a history of incarceration more often displayed problematic behaviors, more often developed psychiatric/medical conditions, and had high rates of health care utilization. A history of incarceration may be a behavioral marker for substance abuse, antisocial behavior, and mental illness. Importantly, GW deployment carried no increased risk of subsequent incarceration overall.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health