New Study Shows Link Between Purple Heart Awards and Longevity


A brand new study (published online only yesterday, it’s not even out in physical print yet!) reveals some information that is likely highly interesting to veterans of all ages.

First, a few statistics to help understand the implications of rest of the information:

  • Most combat veterans who are awarded the Purple Heart do not develop PTSD.
  • but PTSD rates are much higher in veterans who receive the Purple Heart than in veterans who do not receive the Purple Heart.
  • 7.8% of U.S. citizens have some form of PTSD (this includes non military veterans, the % of the veteran population with PTSD is higher than the national %)
  • Veterans with PTSD have a very high rate of “early mortality.”  In this sentence, early mortality can be though of as death within 3 decades of the combat exposure that caused the onset of PTSD.

Who participated in this study?

An amazing 10, 255 veterans participated in this study.  All of these veterans were age 65 or older at the beginning of the study in October 1997.  Additionally, they were all seen at least twice at a VA facility between the October start date September 2009.  They were divided into four groups.

  • 1. With Purple Heart and PTSD.
  • 2. With Purple Heart but without PTSD.
  • 3. Without Purple Heart but with PTSD.
  • 4. Without either Purple Heart or PTSD.

These veterans were tracked for the next ten years, until September 2008.  The conclusions were amazing.  The researchers expected that groups 1 and 2, veterans with a Purple Heart would have the highest mortality rate, and that group 4, veterans with neither a Purple Heart or PTSD would have the lowest mortality rate.  They were wrong!  Groups 1 and 2 have a significantly lower mortality rate than groups 3 and 4.

Of course there are multiple different reasons as to why this result would be true.  Researchers are seeking resilience factors in veterans which are thought to produce longer and happier lives after combat experiences.

So when we get past all the scientific gobbly gook, what does this information translate to for veterans today?  It has an encouraging message. Even if you have suffered physical injury, and possibly suffered psychological injury, if you can survive through all the stresses you experience after your military service, you have a much better chance at living to an old age.


The original article, entitled, “The impact of Purple heart commendation and PTSD on mortality rates in older veterans, published in the journal, Depression and Anxiety, was authored by the following people: Kimbrell, T., Pyne, J. M., Kunik, M. E., Magruder, K. M., Petersen, N. J., Yu, H.-J., Hudson, T. J., Schulz, P. E. and Qureshi, S. U. (2011)


Photo thanks to mattscoggin under creative commons licence on flickr.


4 thoughts on “New Study Shows Link Between Purple Heart Awards and Longevity”

  1. Cynthia Branch

    Sorry – I have to chuckle. Right now I am certain that what my father experienced in the Philippines during WWII was less stressful (this is an exaggeration, of course!) than what the VA is putting me through trying to get my mom’s benefit reestablished. It’s just the whacky mood I am in, after over a year of fighting with them and still no definitive answer.

  2. This IS an interesting study. As a PH Medal recepient and PTSD sufferer, I am definitely encouraged by it. I have often commented that because I was wounded, I automatically received more medical attention, mandatory behavioral health support for instance, that I perhaps would have never received after combat, had I not been wounded. Perhaps the health care system with all of its real or perceived faults does do its job…

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