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Slatore CG, Falvo MJ, Nugent S, Carlson K. Afghanistan and Iraq War Veterans: Mental Health Diagnoses are Associated with Respiratory Disease Diagnoses. Military medicine. 2018 May 1; 183(5-6):e249-e257.
Introduction: Many veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have concomitant respiratory conditions and mental health conditions. We wanted to evaluate the association of mental health diagnoses with respiratory disease diagnoses among post-deployment veterans. Methods: We conducted a retrospective cohort study of all Afghanistan and Iraq War veterans who were discharged from the military or otherwise became eligible to receive Veterans Health Administration services. The primary exposure was receipt of a mental health diagnosis and the primary outcome was receipt of a respiratory diagnosis as recorded in the electronic health record. We used multivariable adjusted logistic regression to measure the associations of mental health diagnoses with respiratory diagnoses and conducted several analyses exploring the timing of the diagnoses. Results: Among 182,338 post-deployment veterans, 14% were diagnosed with a respiratory condition, 77% of whom had a concomitant mental health diagnosis. The incidence rates were 5,363/100,000 person-years (p-y), 587/100,000 p-y, 1,450/100,000 p-y, and 233/100,000 p-y for any respiratory disease diagnosis, bronchitis, asthma, and chronic obstructive lung disease diagnoses, respectively, after the date of first Veterans Health Administration utilization. Any mental health diagnosis was associated with increased odds for any respiratory diagnosis (adjusted odds ratio 1.41, 95% confidence interval 1.37-1.46). The association of mental health diagnoses and subsequent respiratory disease diagnoses was stronger and more consistent than the converse. Conclusion: Many Afghanistan and Iraq War veterans are diagnosed with both respiratory and mental illnesses. Comprehensive plans that include care coordination with mental health professionals and treatments for mental illnesses may be important for many veterans with respiratory diseases.