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The Psychological Costs of War: Military Combat and Mental Health

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  • Resul Cesur
  • Joseph J. Sabia
  • Erdal Tekin

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Resul Cesur & Joseph J. Sabia & Erdal Tekin, 2011. "The Psychological Costs of War: Military Combat and Mental Health," NBER Working Papers 16927, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:16927 Note: HC HE
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    Cited by:

    1. Cesur, Resul & Sabia, Joseph J. & Tekin, Erdal, 2015. "Combat exposure and migraine headache: Evidence from exogenous deployment assignment," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, pages 81-99.
    2. Bratti, Massimiliano & Mendola, Mariapia & Miranda, Alfonso, 2015. "Hard to Forget: The Long-Lasting Impact of War on Mental Health," IZA Discussion Papers 9269, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    3. D. Mark Anderson & Resul Cesur & Erdal Tekin, 2015. "Youth Depression And Future Criminal Behavior," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 53(1), pages 294-317, January.
    4. Deborah Cobb-Clark & Erdal Tekin, 2014. "Fathers and youths’ delinquent behavior," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 12(2), pages 327-358, June.
    5. Johnston, David W. & Shields, Michael A. & Siminski, Peter, 2016. "Long-term health effects of Vietnam-era military service: A quasi-experiment using Australian conscription lotteries," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 45(C), pages 12-26.
    6. Bruno Frey, 2012. "Well-being and war," International Review of Economics, Springer;Happiness Economics and Interpersonal Relations (HEIRS), vol. 59(4), pages 363-375, December.
    7. 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.
    8. Olga Shemyakina & Anke Plagnol, 2013. "Subjective Well-Being and Armed Conflict: Evidence from Bosnia-Herzegovina," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 113(3), pages 1129-1152, September.
    9. Jason M. Lindo & Charles Stoecker, 2014. "Drawn Into Violence: Evidence On “What Makes A Criminal” From The Vietnam Draft Lotteries," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 52(1), pages 239-258, January.
    10. Resul Cesur & Alexander Chesney & Joseph J. Sabia, 2016. "Combat Exposure, Cigarette Consumption, And Substance Use," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 54(3), pages 1705-1726, July.
    11. Ryan D. Edwards, 2012. "Overseas Deployment, Combat Exposure, and Well-Being in the 2010 National Survey of Veterans," NBER Working Papers 18227, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. Brighita Negrusa & Sebastian Negrusa, 2014. "Home Front: Post-Deployment Mental Health and Divorces," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 51(3), pages 895-916, June.
    13. Ryan D. Edwards, 2015. "Overseas Deployment, Combat Exposure, and Well-Being in the 2010 National Survey of Veterans," Journal of Human Capital, University of Chicago Press, pages 64-93.
    14. Swee, Eik Leong, 2015. "On war intensity and schooling attainment: The case of Bosnia and Herzegovina," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 40(PA), pages 158-172.
    15. Tsai, Alexander C. & Venkataramani, Atheendar S., 2015. "Communal bereavement and resilience in the aftermath of a terrorist event: Evidence from a natural experiment," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, pages 155-163.
    16. Sebastian Negrusa & Brighita Negrusa & James Hosek, 2014. "Gone to war: have deployments increased divorces?," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 27(2), pages 473-496, April.
    17. Lyk-Jensen, Stéphanie Vincent & Weatherall, Cecilie Dohlmann & Jepsen, Peter Winning, 2016. "The effect of military deployment on mental health," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, pages 193-208.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H56 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - National Security and War
    • I1 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health

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