For the first time on record, more US troops were hospitalized for mental illness last year than for any other reason, according to new data from the Pentagon. The year saw 17,538 mental health hospitalizations, which narrowly topped childbirth (17,354) and far outstripped injuries or battle wounds (11,156). “War is difficult,” the Army's surgeon general tells USA Today. “It takes a toll.”
Complicating matters is the fact that mental ailments don't present as quickly as physical conditions. "Mental disorders are a trailing indicator of health issues to a prolonged period of war fighting, and these figures reflect that," says one official. Another explains: "Our troops are facing multiple deployments and experiencing psychological stress due to prolonged exposure to combat."