(113) Digging Up Bones: Findings of an Important PTSD Study

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Golly, Miss Molly

A Blog about a Service Dog and her Veteran with PTSD

(Supporting the Veteran and the Family Caregiver)


Digging for Bones

Nancy Montgomery wrote in Stars and Stripes on July 22, 2015 about the first study to analyze the impact of PTSD over 25 years, testing Vietnam Veterans with PTSD. More than 40 years after the Vietnam War, PTSD symptoms continue and worsen in many Veterans.

Molly served as my role model for digging up the well-buried study. Molly digs into the soil, using her sniffer as a guide. Without much effort, she surfaces a deer bone, bringing it to me as a precious gift.

Molly's noseWhile my digging took more effort because I do not have that long nose and acute olfactory sense, I found the study many cyber layers beneath the surface on the website of New York University Cohen Veterans Center under a listing of projects completed by Dr. Charles Marmar. What a find, indeed. I wanted to carry it like a bone to our Molly Blog readers, hoping you are as excited about the study as I am. (Can you see my tail wagging?)

NVVLS and NVVRS 

Loving acronyms since I was a kid, my siblings and I used to make acronyms from our alphabet cereal and try to stump one another with their meaning. This study is filled with acronyms that makes my alphabet zeal swirl with delight. Let me share with you three important acronyms to understand the key findings of the report.

NVVLS – National Vietnam Veterans Longitudinal Study, a study mandated by Congress to assess Vietnam Veterans who participated in an earlier study (NVVRS) over a 25-year period

NVVRS – National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study, which was the first study to measure PTSD symptoms in Vietnam Veterans after PTSD was added to the DSM-III R

DSM – Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for mental disorders; DSM-III R was the revised third edition of the manual, which was the first time PTSD was included as a legitimate disorder; William participated in the original study group, which made the case for PTSD to be added into the DSM-III R

Bare Bones Findings 

The study, which meets the requirements to be considered valid, reliable, and statistically significant, found that of the sample of Vietnam theatre Veterans tested, 16 percent showed an increase of more than 20 points on a PTSD-related scale (20 points is considered to be a high rating of increase on the Mississippi Scale for Combat-Related PTSD symptoms). At the same time, the study revealed that 7.6 percent saw an improvement (of greater than 20 points) over the 25-year study period.The study concluded that 271,000 Vietnam theatre Veterans have current full PTSD with one-third currently displaying major depressive disorder more than 40 years after the war.

These findings underscore the need for mental health services for many decades for veterans with PTSD symptoms.” NVVLS Report

Digging Continues on Friday 

The study overflows with important information that supports the long-term treatment of PTSD in war Veterans. This bursts with good news for Iraqi and Afghanistan Veterans, returning from war with PTSD. On the darker side, however, what the study does not say leaves a trail of tears for those PTSD Veterans, who did not survive from the time of the first to the second study.

The Molly Blog continues on Friday with more details of the study’s significance.

Post your Comments: 

What is your perspective on the NVVLS study findings? Please reply below. 

Source cited:

  • Marmar, Charles R., et al. “Course of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder 40 Years After the Vietnam War: Findings From the National Vietnam Veterans Longitudinal Study.” JAMA Psychiatry, 2015; 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2015.0803

About the blogger 

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