Chronic multisymptom illness: A comparison of Iraq and Afghanistan deployers with veterans of the 1991 Gulf War

Tyler C. Smith*, Teresa M. Powell, Isabel G. Jacobson, Besa Smith, Tomoko I. Hooper, Edward J. Boyko, Gary D. Gackstetter

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Symptoms and illnesses reported by veterans of the 1991 Gulf War era are a cause of potential concern for those military members who have deployed to the Gulf region in support of more recent contingency operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. In the present study, we quantified self-reported symptoms from participants in the Millennium Cohort Study, a prospective study representing all US service branches, including both active duty and Reserve/National Guard components (2001-2008). Self-reported symptoms were uniquely compared with those in a cohort of subjects from the 1991 Gulf War to gain context for the present report. Symptoms were then aggregated to identify cases of chronic multisymptom illness (CMI) based on the case definition from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The prevalence of self-reported CMI symptoms was compared with that collected in 1997-1999 from a study population of US Seabees from the 1991 Gulf War, as well as from deployed and nondeployed subgroups. Although overall symptom reporting was much less in the Millennium Cohort than in the 1991 Gulf War cohort, a higher prevalence of reported CMI was noted among deployed compared with nondeployed contemporary cohort members. An increased understanding of coping skills and resilience and development of well-designed screening instruments, along with appropriate clinical and psychological follow-up for returning veterans, might help to focus resources on early identification of potential long-term chronic disease manifestations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1176-1187
Number of pages12
JournalAmerican Journal of Epidemiology
Issue number12
StatePublished - 15 Dec 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Gulf War syndrome
  • Illnesses in Gulf War Veterans
  • Multisystem illness
  • Symptom self-reporting


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