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The legacy of the Vietnam War

By Maureen Wildes - posted Monday, 10 October 2005

Children of Vietnam Veterans Health Study Inc. (COVVHS) is a group of concerned people who have come together to promote the health issues facing many sons and daughters of Vietnam veterans who have health problems as a result of their parents’ active service.

It is not only the parents of sons and daughters of Vietnam veterans, but many sons and daughters themselves have contacted our organisation expressing concern about the current state of their health. The majority of explanations indicate these young adults are suffering levels and rates of illnesses considerably higher than those of their peers outside of the veteran community.

The conditions they experience include depression, anxiety, psychotic disorder, mental illness and medical illnesses such as endometriosis, ovarian problems, bowel conditions, skin conditions, heart, kidney and eye problems, auto-immune illnesses and many others.


This group of people also suffers from high incidences of Bipolar Disorder which is very disturbing when you consider the findings of an Access Economic Report by SANE Australia 2003:

  • Over two thirds of people with Bipolar are likely to be misdiagnosed, on average 3.5 times, with the average time from onset to accurate diagnosis being over 10 years;
  • Bipolar Disorder is largely misdiagnosed and under-treated, leading to unacceptably high rates of suicide and costs to society; and
  • of those who suicide, 60 per cent are estimated to have received inadequate treatment.

Most people are aware of the 1998 Morbidity Study on Vietnam veterans. This study provided the first insight into the wide range of serious illnesses suffered by Vietnam veterans’ sons and daughters. The study revealed they are three times more likely to commit suicide than equivalent age groupings in the general population. They are also more prone to significant accidents and are more likely to experience mental health problems.

Information and findings collated from a “grass roots” self-reported study conducted by The Partners of Veterans Association of Australia Inc. based on a sample of approximately 2,500 children and grandchildren revealed the following alarming results.

These results showed that over 50 per cent of the Vietnam veterans children surveyed, suffered from many physical, psychological or psychiatric illnesses that were impacting on both their quality of life and their ability to work.

In the children:

  • Approximately 70 per cent have either psychiatric or psychological problems;
  • approximately 55 per cent have a physical illness;
  • approximately 5 per cent have been in a correctional facility;
  • approximately 15 per cent are either on disability pension or unemployment pension;
  • approximately 55 per cent have a deteriorating quality of life according to their parents;
  • approximately 15 per cent are accident prone; and
  • approximately 15 per cent have skeletal abnormalities.

In the grandchildren:

  • Approximately 30 per cent have physical illness;
  • approximately 30 per cent have behavioural problems; and
  • approximately 8 per cent have skeletal abnormalities
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About the Author

Maureen Wildes is the secretary for Children of Vietnam Veterans Health Study (COVVHS)

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