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Rumors of Gulf War Syndrome

Informal communication among British veterans of the first Iraq war may have shaped the vets' characterization of Gulf War Syndrome.

11:55am, October 17, 2008

After the bullets stopped flying, the rumors took off among British veterans of the 1991 Gulf War. Early accounts of physical and emotional reactions to wartime experiences spread from one person to another through networks of veterans. Within a few years, these former soldiers had decided among themselves that many of them suffered from the controversial illness known as Gulf War Syndrome, a new study concludes.

Simon Wessely of King’s College London and his colleagues analyzed extensive written accounts provided in 1996, five years after the Gulf War, by 1,100 British Gulf War vets participating in a larger survey of veterans’ health. Vets described their wartime experiences and related what had happened in the conflict to their later health and illness.

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