GAINESVILLE, Fla., Oct. 6 (UPI) — The trauma of combat can devastate some veterans into old age while making others wiser, gentler and more accepting in their twilight years, a study found.
Researchers at the University of Florida say findings are ominous for today’s men and women who find themselves in heavy combat in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars for periods that probably exceed the length of time experienced by U.S. veterans during World War II, a university release says.
“The study shows that we really need to take care of our veterans when they arrive home, because if we don’t, they may have problems for the rest of their lives,” UF sociologist Monika Ardelt said. “Yet veterans report they are facing long waiting lines at mental health clinics and struggling to get the services they need.”
The study compared 50 World War II veterans with high combat exposure with 110 veterans without any combat experiences. Heavy combat exposure at a young age had a detrimental effect on physical health and psychological well-being for about half of the men well into their 80s, results showed.
The study found that about half of the veterans who experienced a high level of combat showed signs of stress-related growth at mid-life, leading to greater wisdom and well-being in old age than among veterans who witnessed no combat, Ardelt said.
“You can either conclude that God has abandoned you, the world is an unfair place and there is nothing else to do but close yourself off from it all, or you can manage to open yourself up and develop compassion for the suffering of others realizing that you have now become a part of it,” she said.
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