(32) Can Your Dog Count? Statistics of PTSD and War

Molly, the service dog

Golly, Miss Molly

A blog about a service dog and her veteran with PTSD

(Supporting the veteran and the family caregiver)


Do double dewclaws make counting easier?

My head spins and my heart rate races off the charts. I see numbers in my sleep. My mind wanders to more numbers—scary numbers. Not the numbers I used to calculate such as investment returns, arbitrage, or statistical probability. These scary numbers bring down Wall Street giants. I call them domestic math.

What started this numbers nightmare? Driving 150 miles two days a week on a special assignment, I calculate my mileage to predict my next refuel. My grocery store tells me that if I spend $50 dollars by 10-21-14, I will earn $.40 cents in gas credits at its gas station. That makes it $3.43 a gallon instead of $3.83 a gallon, which saves me…? To forget my gasoline savings calculation on my drive, I shove the next DVD into the car radio and listen to the Chinese language narrator.

“Our next lesson is numbers. We will learn to count from one to 100 in Mandarin.”

I panic and shut down the counting lesson. Arriving at my destination, I play with my granddaughter and grab her stuffed Einstein Piano to take my mind off the math. She hits the first key and the pre-recorded voice counts the piano keys—in three languages.

I surrender and decide to give the task of all future domestic math chores to Miss Molly. If a dog possesses four claws on four paws that means she can count to 16 easily. In Miss Molly’s case, she boasts of her Great Pyrenees heritage, which means she possesses double dewclaws. That means two extra claws per leg times four, which is eight plus the traditional 16. Canine calculation meets domestic math—now it’s getting ugly

Calculating the incidence of PTSD is uglier than canine calculation

 No matter what study or book I open, the statistics on war casualties from PTSD varies. The experts cannot agree on the numbers. In a January 2014 report to the National Center for PTSD, I found a simple presentation of the numbers. This comparison should help you not feel alone with your PTSD (and it should not muddle the brain).

Author, Jaimie Gradus in his article, “Epidemiology of PTSD,” refers to seven studies, three of which cover war veterans.

Study 1: National Comorbidity Survey done in the early 1990s that surveyed 8,098 citizens ages 15 to 54 showed a lifetime prevalence of PTSD of 7.8 percent for the general US population. For men, the occurrences were 5 percent. For women, 10.4 percent.

Study 2: National Comorbidity Survey Replication from February 2001 to April 2003 of 9,282 Americans aged 18 and over, the lifetime prevalence of PTSD was 6.8 percent. For men, the prevalence was 3.6 percent. For women, it was 9.7 percent.

Study 3: 2003 study of adolescents based on data from the National Survey of Adolescents, which surveyed 4,023 children between the ages of 12 and 17. PTSD prevalence was 3.7 percent in boys and 6.3 percent in girls.

Study 4: World Health Organization (WHO) study in 2008, using data from the 1990s, which surveyed nearly 200,000 people in 27 countries showed .3 percent affected individuals in China and 6.1 percent in New Zealand. Of course, comparison of the international numbers creates problems due to the differences in methodology and data gathering techniques.

Statistics of PTSD among veterans

Study 5: National Vietnam Readjustment Study conducted between November 1986 and February 1988 of 3,016 interviews of US veterans, who served in the armed forces (not just combat veterans), showed prevalence of PTSD at 30.9 percent for men and 26.9 percent for women. For the Vietnam theatre Veterans, the study showed a prevalence of 15.2 percent men and 8.1 percent for women.

Study 6: Various studies of Gulf War Veterans that reviewed the profiles of 11,441 veterans from 1995 to 1997, 12.1 percent prevalence (both men and women). These studies estimated 10.1 percent prevalence of PTSD in the total of Gulf War Veterans.

Study 7: 2008 RAND Corporation (think tank) study from the Center for Military Health Policy Research with 1,938 deployed participants, the prevalence of PTSD was 13.8 percent.

In her preface to Moving a Nation to Care: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and America’s Returning Troops, Ilona Meagher stated, “It is estimated that 30 percent of those who spend time in a war zone will develop PTSD. And in today’s theaters of war, where troops are dealing with extended and multiple deployments, twenty-four hour operations with no opportunity to unwind, sleep deprivation, ever-changing mission goals and guerilla warfare conditions where enemies and civilians blend together, it has been estimated that cases of PTSD may be higher than in past conflicts.”

What does it mean?

Here are conclusions I draw from this data:

  1. The prevalence of PTSD is higher in veterans than in the general population in the US
  2. The incidence of PTSD is greater in women than men for the general population
  3. Inadequate data is available to determine gender breakdown for wars since Vietnam
  4. It is difficult to compare the presence of PTSD between wars, countries, and gender due to lack of data and differences in methodology, administration of studies, and lack of standard criteria for analysis or data collection
  5. PTSD as an often-delayed symptomatic disease makes it difficult to know the full impact on our veterans
  6. More resources are needed to better understand, predict/prevent, and treat PTSD, including how it affects men and women differently
  7. If you are a veteran with PTSD, YOU ARE NOT ALONE

On a lighter side

Molly's green pawsMolly would not be able to help with the counting of this entangled database because her parasitic adventure causes her to chew on her paws. William fixed that problem by spraying each paw with a sore-throat antiseptic. Molly’s paws turned green with the spray and became numb. At least she no longer chews on them but she cannot count with them either. 

Post your Comments:

If you could direct a study on PTSD, what question or issue would you want a researcher to study? Please comment below.

About the blogger

Dr. Penelope “Penny” Culbreth-Graft is a retired city manager and graduate professor. She lives with her husband, William, and dog, Molly, on Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado. She writes, paints, cares for her husband, and spends time with her grandchildren.