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Civilians in War Zones Also Suffer Mental Health Problems: Study

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THURSDAY, April 10, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Mental health problems are common among civilians who work for the U.S. military in war zones, a new study finds.

There are a large number of civilians who provide support services in war zones. For example, the U.S. Army had more than 6,000 civilian workers in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2009.

These civilians are not involved in combat, but they are still exposed to "life-threatening hazards," explained study co-author Alex Bierman, an assistant professor at the University of Calgary, in Canada.

Among the war zone-based civilian workers in the study, one-third said they felt their lives were threatened a few times a month, through events such as rocket or mortar attacks on military bases and the threat of improvised explosive devices.

Workers who experienced a higher number of life-threatening events had more frequent symptoms of mental health problems such as anxiety, depression and anger, according to the study published recently in the journal Social Psychology Quarterly.

The study also found that civilian workers' mental health became progressively worse as they faced an increasing number of threats.

"It's important to understand that civilian exposure to life-threatening hazards may have long-term mental health effects, and we should be offering support to these people," Bierman said in a journal news release.

He believes there are ways to create a more supportive environment for military-employed civilians in war zones that can help reduce their tension and stress.

Bierman noted that the psychological effects of combat on soldiers has been extensively studied, but there has been little research into the mental health of civilians who work for the military in war zones.

More information

The American Psychiatric Association has more about mental health issues in the military.

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