How the Vietnam War affected Australian veterans’ health following deployment has been realised in a groundbreaking study from the University of Wollongong.
Associate Professor Peter Siminski lead the research published in the Journal of Health Economics, which is the first of its kind in Australia to take a long-term view of the health effects on conscripts.
The findings highlighted psychological trauma and hearing loss were the most prominent in the years following war.
Professor Siminski said the study would help Australian’s historical understanding of the war era and to better understand the “human consequences of conflict”.
The team analysed data on deaths, cancer diagnoses and hospital presentations with their results confirming anecdotal evidence from veterans that mental issues, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, plagued them for years after.
“The danger of the unknown was always in the back of these soldiers’ minds, even if they weren’t physically injured many were left traumatised,” said Professor Siminski.
“This has led to much uncertainty about the long-term health effects of Vietnam War veterans because, despite the large body of research, there are mixed findings due to availability of data or the problem of comparing the long-term health of a deployed soldier with the general population.”
He said with most veterans aged in the 60s and 70s the research could assist in policy relating to health care and welfare services.