PTSD & Korean War Veterans

Research Paper Title

Aging and Trauma: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Among Korean War Veterans.


Having experienced posttraumatic stress disorder 30 years prior to its recognition as a formal disorder, Korean War veterans are now an ageing population that requires unique clinical management.

The Korean War lasted from 25 June 1950 through 27 July 1953. Although many veterans of the Korean War experienced traumas during extremely stressful combat conditions. However, they would not have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) at the time because the latter did not exist as a formal diagnosis until the publication of the third edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) in 1980. Prior to 1980, psychiatric syndromes resulting from war and combat exposure where known by numerous other terms including shell shock, chronic traumatic war neurosis, and combat fatigue/combat exhaustion. Military psychiatrists attended to combat fatigue during the course of the Korean War, but as was true of World War I and II, the focus was on returning soldiers to duty. Combat fatigue was generally viewed as a transient condition.

Although now octo- and nonagenarians, in 2019 there are 1.2 million living Korean War veterans in the US, representing 6.7% of all current veterans. Understanding their war experiences and the nature of their current and past presentation of PTSD is relevant not only in formal mental health settings, but in primary care settings, including home-based primary care, as well as community living centres, skilled nursing facilities and assisted living facilities. Older adults with PTSD often present with somatic concerns rather than spontaneously reporting mental health symptoms. Beyond the short-term clinical management of Korean War veterans with PTSD, consideration of their experiences also has long-term relevance for the appropriate treatment of other veteran cohorts as they age in coming decades.

The purpose of this article is to provide a clinically focused overview of PTSD in Korean War veterans, to help promote understanding of this often-forgotten group of veterans, and to foster optimised personalised care. This overview will include a description of the Korean War veteran population and the Korean War itself, the manifestations and identification of PTSD among Korean War veterans, and treatment approaches using evidence-based psychotherapies and pharmacotherapies. Finally, the researches provide recommendations for future research to address present empirical gaps in the understanding and treatment of Korean War veterans with PTSD.


Palmer, B.W., Friend, S., Huege, S., Mulvaney, M., Badawood, A., Almaghraby, A. & Lohr, J.B. (2019) Aging and Trauma: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Among Korean War Veterans. Federal Practitioner. 36(12), pp.554-562.

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