The authors conducted an extensive search for published works concerning healthcare utilization and mortality among Gulf War veterans of the Coalition forces who served during the1990–1991 Gulf War. Reports concerning the health experience of US, UK, Canadian, Saudi and Australian veterans were reviewed. This report summarizes 15 years of observations and research in four categories: Gulf War veteran healthcare registry studies, hospitalization studies, outpatient studies and mortality studies. A total of 149 728 (19.8%) of 756 373 US, UK, Canadian and Australian Gulf War veterans received health registry evaluations revealing a vast number of symptoms and clinical conditions but no suggestion that a new unique illness was associated with service during the Gulf War. Additionally, no Gulf War exposure was uniquely implicated as a cause for post-war morbidity. Numerous large, controlled studies of US Gulf War veterans' hospitalizations, often involving more than a million veterans, have been conducted. They revealed an increased post-war risk for mental health diagnoses, multi-symptom conditions and musculoskeletal disorders. Again, these data failed to demonstrate that Gulf War veterans suffered from a unique Gulf War-related illness. The sparsely available ambulatory care reports documented that respiratory and gastrointestinal complaints were quite common during deployment. Using perhaps the most reliable data, controlled mortality studies have revealed that Gulf War veterans were at increased risk of injuries, especially those due to vehicular accidents. In general, healthcare utilization data are now exhausted. These findings have now been incorporated into preventive measures in support of current military forces. With a few diagnostic exceptions such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, mental disorders and cancer, it now seems time to cease examining Gulf War veteran morbidity and to direct future research efforts to preventing illness among current and future military personnel.
One contribution of 17 to a Theme Issue ‘The health of Gulf War veterans’.
- © 2006 The Royal Society