Professor to study effects of combat on veterans

VANCOUVER – Alair MacLean, assistant professor of sociology at Washington State University Vancouver, received a two year grant of more than $162,000 from the National Institutes for Health for her study on veterans’ combat exposure and its socioeconomic outcomes.

“This issue has taken on increased social and policy significance in light of ongoing combat operations involving the United States’ armed forces,” said MacLean. “Since the fall of 2001, more than 700,000 U.S. military personnel have served in combat zones in or around Iraq and Afghanistan. Of these, more than 2,000 have been killed, nearly 16,000 have been injured by hostile fire, and thousands more have been evacuated from combat zones for psychological treatment.

If prior wars are any indication, many returning wartime veterans will struggle for years with post-traumatic stress disorder, even if they suffered no physical injuries during their time in a combat zone.”

MacLean will be analyzing three large sets of data from various sources including the Veterans Administration, studying veterans and their families from wars stretching from World War II to the present.

“Part of what we’re looking at is trajectories of employment and earnings among combat vets, non-combat veterans and non-veterans,” she said.

Given the well-established links between health, employment, and socioeconomic outcomes, MacLean seeks to extend previous research on the health and mental health consequences of combat into a realm that has received relatively little attention: the effects of combat exposure on veterans’ ability to work and earn in their later civilian lives.

MacLean will bring together insights on the effects of combat on physical and mental health with research on the more general effects of military service on veterans’ education, training, earnings, occupational and marital status.

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