For many World War II veterans, decades-old memories of war aren’t as deeply buried as they once believed. The veterans administration estimates that 5% of the 2.5 million US World War II vets suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports. Older vets came of age when “expressing psychological symptoms or distress was pretty stigmatized,” a psychiatrist says—meaning emotional wounds often went untreated.
So why is PTSD emerging just now? The changes that come with aging are a factor. The death of a spouse or friend can trigger symptoms, as can health problems. For some, old age simply allows more time to think. “We find many individuals who have … worked out ways to develop defenses,” says one VA pschologist. “But as they get older those defenses don’t work quite as well.”