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Study Shows Limits in Helping Children Deal With Conflict

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A look at two studies in a violence-related issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. Transcri
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19 August 2008



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This the VOA Special English Health Report.

United States Army soldiers secure an area in Baqouba, Iraq, in March of last year. A recent study found that soldiers who fought in wars were 63 percent more likely to later abuse alcohol than non-deployed personnel.
The Journal of the American Medical Association, or JAMA, has published its yearly issue on violence and human rights.

One report is on a study of a mental health program for children affected by political violence in Central Sulawesi, Indonesia.

The study of the school-based intervention involved about five hundred children. The average age was ten. Some took part in a therapy program for five weeks. They met fifteen times with locally trained mental-health workers. The other children, a control group, received no therapy.

The researchers say the therapy appeared to moderately reduce signs of post-traumatic stress disorder. It also helped support feelings of hope. But it did not reduce signs of depression or abnormal fear.

A team from the Netherlands, at the nonprofit organization HealthNet TPO and Vrije University Medical Center, did the study.

In an audio commentary on the JAMA Web site, the journal's editor in chief, Cathy DeAngelis, expressed regret at the findings. In her words: "I guess violence to children has its toll no matter what you do."

Another study in the special issue looked at alcohol use among American troops back from war. At the beginning of the study, more than forty-eight thousand service members answered questions about their use of alcohol. Some went on to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan, and some were deployed in non-combat duties. Most were not deployed.

Later, the men and women answered questions again about their drinking.

New cases of heavy drinking were highest among younger service members and members of the Reserve and National Guard returning from the wars. These normally part-time forces have played an important part in Iraq and Afghanistan. But those who fought in the wars were sixty-three percent more likely to later abuse alcohol than non-deployed personnel.

Active-duty service members involved in combat were thirty-one percent more likely to begin binge drinking when they returned home. Drinking four to five drinks within about four hours is considered binge drinking.

The Naval Health Research Center in San Diego, California, did the study. The researchers note that high rates of alcohol misuse have been reported among service members returning from past conflicts. But there has been little information so far about the current wars. 

And that's the VOA Special English Health Report, written by Caty Weaver. Transcripts and MP3s are at voaspecialenglish.com. I'm Steve Ember.

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