Quality of life and health-services utilization in a population-based sample of military personnel reporting multiple chemical sensitivities

Donald W. Black, Bradley N. Doebbeling, Margaret D. Voelker, William R. Clarke, Robert F. Woolson, Drue H. Barrett, David A. Schwartz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations

Abstract

We sought to assess quality of life and health-services utilization variables in persons with symptoms suggestive of multiple chemical sensitivity/idiopathic environmental intolerance (MCS/IEI) among military personnel. We conducted a cross-sectional telephone survey of a population- based sample of Persian Gulf War (PGW) veterans from Iowa and a comparison group of PGW-era military personnel. A complex sample survey design was used, selecting subjects from four domains: PGW active duty, PGW National Guard/Reserve, non-PGW active duty, and non-PGW National Guard/Reserve. Each domain was substratified by age, gender, race, rank, and military branch. The criteria for MCS/IEI were developed by expert consensus and from the medical literature. In the total sample, 169 subjects (4.6%) of the 3695 who participated (76% of those eligible) met our criteria for MCS/IEI. Persons who met the criteria for MCS/IEI more often reported the following than did other subjects: more than 12 days in bed due to disability, Veteran's Affairs disability status, Veteran's Affairs disability compensation, medical disability, and unemployment. MCS/IEI cases also had higher outpatient rates of physician visits, emergency department visits, and inpatient hospital stays. Subjects who met the criteria for MCS/IEI more often reported impaired functioning on each Medical Outcomes Study 36-Item Short Form subscale, compared with those who did not meet the criteria. We concluded that although the diagnosis of MCS/IEI remains controversial, the persons who met our criteria for the disorder are functionally impaired.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)928-933
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine
Volume41
Issue number10
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 1 1999
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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