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For Immediate Release
Contact: For copies of articles, call Patricia Warin, (202) 777-2511 or e-mail

News from the December American Journal of Public Health

AJPH News Release


EMBARGOED UNTIL October 21, 2010, 4 PM (ET)


CONTACT:  For copies of articles or full table of contents of issue, call Patricia Warin, 202-777-2511, or e-mail


The articles below will be published online October 21, 2010, at 4 p.m. (ET) by the American Journal of Public Health under “First Look” at, and they are currently scheduled to appear in the December 2010 print issue of the Journal. “First Look” articles have undergone peer review, copyediting and approval by authors but have not yet been printed to paper or posted online by issue. The American Journal of Public Health is published by the American Public Health Association,, and is available at


American Journal of Public Health Highlights:

·         Promoting mental health could reduce the incidence and prevalence of mental illness

·         Gender differences found in mental health diagnoses among returning veterans  

·         Trafficked and sexually exploited girls and women experience traumatic damage to their mental health and well-being

Promoting mental health could reduce the incidence and prevalence of mental illness

In a new study from the American Journal of Public Health, researchers found that a change in the level of positive mental health can be a predictor of future risk of mental illness, thereby supporting the need for greater attention to public health mental health promotion.

Researchers attempted to describe the prevalence of mental health and illness, the stability of both diagnoses over time and whether changes in mental health level predicted mental illness. They did so by analyzing data from 1,723 participants of the 1995 and 2005 Midlife in the United States cross-sectional surveys. The participants were measured for positive mental health and 12-month mental disorders of major depressive episode, panic and generalized anxiety disorder. The prevalence of mental illness was about the same in 1995 (18.5 percent) as it was in 2005 (17.5 percent). Only seven in 10 adults (72.4 percent) did not present symptoms of any mental disorder in 1995 and 2005. Of the 17.5 percent of respondents with any mental illness in 2005, slightly more than half were new cases.

The study’s authors state, “Our findings suggest the need for investing in mental health promotion and protection to complement the de facto approach of treatment and risk reduction for improving national mental health.”

[From: “Change in Level of Positive Mental Health as a Predictor of Future Risk of Mental Illness.” Contact: Corey Keyes, PhD, Emory University, Department of Sociology, Atlanta, Ga.,]. 

Gender differences found in mental health diagnoses among returning veterans

A new study from the American Journal of Public Health points to gender differences in mental health diagnoses among veterans returning from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Researchers examined gender differences in sociodemographic, military service and mental health characteristics among Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom veterans, as associated with depression and posttraumatic stress disorder. Using a cross-sectional study, they used Department of Veterans Affairs administrative data on 329,049 veterans who received Veterans Affairs health care from April 1, 2002, through March 31, 2008. They found that female veterans were younger and more likely to be black and to receive depression diagnoses than were male veterans, who were more frequently diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder and alcohol use disorder.

The study’s authors wrote, “In an era in which a greater proportion of women have served in the U.S. military in a much wider variety of military occupational specialties than ever before, our results contribute to a better understanding of the characteristics of women seeking VA health care as well as how their characteristics may differentially be associated with mental health outcome.” They added, “Gender differences are important to consider as the Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense continue to expand and strengthen programs to evaluate and provide care for a new generation of returning veterans.”

[From: “Gender Differences in Mental Health Diagnoses Among Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans Enrolled in Veterans Affairs Health Care.” Contact: Shira Maguen, PhD, San Francisco VA Medical Center, PTSD Program, San Francisco, Calif.,].      

Trafficked and sexually exploited girls and women experience traumatic damage to their mental health and well-being

Trafficked and sexually exploited women and girls experience higher levels of posttraumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety, reports a new study.

Researchers explored the association between traumatic events and mental health among girls and women trafficked for sexual exploitation. Two hundred and four trafficked girls and women in seven post-trafficking service settings were interviewed, using the Brief Symptom Inventory and Harvard Trauma Questionnaire. Fifty-five percent of participants met the criteria for high levels of depression symptoms; forty-eight percent met the criteria for high levels of anxiety symptoms; and seventy-seven percent had possible posttraumatic stress disorder. Having a history of sexual violence was associated with higher levels of posttraumatic stress disorder. More time in trafficking was correlated to higher levels of depression and anxiety. Researchers suggest that their findings inform the emerging field of mental health care for trafficked persons, highlighting the need for intervention strategies to help with recovery for trafficked victims.

Researchers suggested, “The mental health community can take the lead by developing and testing formal and informal intervention strategies that help women and girls manage the aftermath of a trafficking experience.”

[From: “The Relationship of Trauma to Mental Disorders Among Trafficked and Sexually Exploited Girls and Women.” Contact: Mazeda Hossain, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, U.K.,].

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The American Journal of Public Health is the monthly journal of the American Public Health Association (APHA), the oldest organization of public health professionals in the world. APHA is a leading publisher of books and periodicals promoting sound scientific standards, action programs and public policy to enhance health. More information is available at


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