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Stability of symptom patterns in Australian Gulf War veterans: 10-year longitudinal study
  1. S M Gwini1,
  2. H L Kelsall1,
  3. M R Sim1,
  4. J F Ikin1,
  5. A C McFarlane2,
  6. A B Forbes1
  1. 1School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Monash University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  2. 2Centre for Traumatic Stress Studies, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Ms SM Gwini, Monash University, Department of Epidemiology & Preventive Medicine, The Alfred Centre, 99 Commercial Road, Melbourne 3004, Vic, Australia; stella.gwini{at}monash.edu

Abstract

Objectives Previously we established that symptoms reported by 1990–1991 Gulf War veterans were correlated and exhibited a pattern with 3 factors (psychophysiological distress, somatic distress and arthroneuromuscular distress), and this pattern was similar to that observed in a military comparison group. In this follow-up study, we examined whether the patterns of symptomatology have changed over time.

Methods Using data on 56 symptoms that was collected in 2000–2003 (wave 1) and 2011–2012 (wave 2) from an Australian cohort of Gulf War veterans (veterans) and a military comparison group, exploratory factor analysis was conducted and Tucker's Congruence Coefficient (TCC) was used to determine factor structure similarity across study groups and waves.

Results The results showed that the 3 factors observed at wave 1 were still present at wave 2, and factor structures across study groups and study waves were fairly similar, with TCC ranging 0.86–0.92. Veterans consistently reported more symptoms across all 3 factors. Veterans’ symptomatology specific to psychophysiological distress increased between waves 1 and 2 (ratio of means 1.15; 95% CI 1.07 to 1.25) but psychophysiological distress symptomatology was constant in the comparison group (ratio of means 0.97; 95% CI 0.89 to 1.06). Somatic and arthroneuromuscular distress symptomatology significantly increased over time for both study groups, although at a similar rate.

Conclusions While the symptom groupings (measured by the 3 factors) remained unchanged at 10 years of follow-up, and remained comparable between Gulf War and comparison group, symptomatology continued to be elevated in Gulf War veterans than in the comparison group, and was most evident for psychophysiological distress.

  • Gulf War
  • syndrome
  • occupational disease
  • factor analysis

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