NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

The Psychological Costs of War: Military Combat and Mental Health

Resul Cesur, Joseph J. Sabia, Erdal Tekin

NBER Working Paper No. 16927
Issued in April 2011
NBER Program(s):   HC   HE

While descriptive evidence suggests that deployment in the Global War on Terrorism is associated with adverse mental health, the causal effect of combat is not well established. Using data drawn from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, we exploit exogenous variation in deployment assignment and find that soldiers deployed to combat zones where they engage in frequent enemy firefight or witness allied or civilian deaths are at substantially increased risk for suicidal ideation, psychological counseling, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Our estimates imply lower-bound health care costs of $1.5 to $2.7 billion for combat-induced PTSD.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w16927

Published: Cesur, Resul & Sabia, Joseph J. & Tekin, Erdal, 2013. "The psychological costs of war: Military combat and mental health," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(1), pages 51-65. citation courtesy of

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