Meeting Abstract

Persistence of symptoms reported over time by Gulf War veterans



Hallman W, Ozakinci G, Wartenberg D & Kipen H (2003) Persistence of symptoms reported over time by Gulf War veterans. 15th Conference of the International Society for Environmental Epidemiology 2003, Perth, Australia. Epidemiology, 14 (Supplement 5), pp. S81-S81.

Although casualties were extremely low among nearly 697,000 American service personnel who served in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm in 1990–1991, after the war many returning veterans complained about persistent, yet unexplained health problems. The resulting controversy gave rise to the term ‘Gulf War Syndrome’ or ‘Gulf War-related illnesses’. The present research investigates whether changes in health status and symptom reporting by Gulf War veterans persist over a 5-year period. A sample of 398 randomly selected veterans completed mail questionnaires in 1995 (Time 1) and 2000 (Time 2). The participants were asked to report whether they experienced any of 48 symptoms and if so, whether the symptoms were ‘mild,’ ‘moderate,’ or ‘severe.’ The results suggest that both the average number of symptoms reported and average symptom severity have changed little over time. Respondents reported a mean of 21.96 mild, moderate, or severe symptoms at Time 1, and a mean of 22.73 symptoms at Time 2 t (397) = .1.695, p = .091). There was no significant change in mean symptom severity collapsed across the 48 symptoms measured at Time 1 and Time 2 (Time 1: M = .82, Time 2: M = .84; t (397) = .802, p = .423). While a multivariate repeated measures analysis of variance did suggest a significant overall difference in the severity of individual symptoms reported at Time 1 and Time 2 (F (48, 350) = 2.469, p < .05), tests of within-subjects contrasts indicated that after a bonferoni adjustment, there were no significant changes in the severity within any of the specific pairs of symptoms reported at Time 1 and Time 2. In fact, changes in the severity of only four symptoms approached significance–problems with eyes or vision (Time 1: M = .83; Time 2: M = .96), difficulty breathing (Time 1: M = .75; Time 2: M = .62), skin problems (Time 1: M = 1.09; Time 2: M = .94), and difficulty remembering (Time 1: M = 1.30; Time 2: M = 1.45) (p < .005, p < .004, p < .003, and p < .002, respectively). These findings are important in showing the persistent nature of the symptoms that these veterans report. Our findings suggest that symptoms related to Gulf War illness are not resolving over time.

Epidemiology: Volume 14, Issue Supplement 5

Publication date30/09/2003
Date accepted by journal01/11/2003
Conference15th Conference of the International Society for Environmental Epidemiology 2003
Conference locationPerth, Australia

People (1)


Professor Gozde Ozakinci

Professor Gozde Ozakinci

Professor and Deputy Dean of Faculty, Psychology