War has been an unfortunate yet very realistic part of human history. A war not only brings with it a massive destruction of human life and resources but also a lot of unseen mental scars and trauma that leave a lasting impact on the minds of its victims. This article explores the severe psychological impact of war on the minds of soldiers and civilians based on recent research and findings:
A war brings with it a huge loss of life and property. It can be incredibly shocking and painful to lose someone during a war. Grief can be overwhelming and frightening, especially when lives are taken suddenly, unexpectedly, and violently. Sufferers may not even have the time to deal with these feelings if they are dealing with other emergencies, making the grief even deeper and more complicated. Because everyone handles difficult emotions differently, it may take some people years to process these feelings.
PTSD is one of the most well-known psychological consequences of war. PTSD can affect both soldiers and civilians who have been involved in a conflict. A recent study conducted during the Russia-Ukraine war discovered a significant increase in PTSD symptoms among Ukrainian civilians. The study also discovered a higher prevalence of PTSD symptoms in women, the elderly, and displaced people. This study highlights the devastating trauma caused by war. Some can also suffer through the ‘survivor’s guilt’ which is marked by the feelings of ‘why do I deserve to live when others are dead?’
A war creates an atmosphere of fear, uncertainty, and instability, leading to an increased risk of anxiety and depression among civilians and soldiers. A lot of people end up getting displaced from their homes, putting them in a physically and emotionally uncertain state. A lot of civilians in Israel have reported feeling worried and anxious as their family members have gone missing during recent conditions of war.
Children are usually the most vulnerable and innocent victims of war, dealing with a lot of physical, emotional, and psychological challenges. In a recent study conducted on the impact of war on children living in war-prone areas, it was found that children who live through wars often face emotional and behavioral challenges. It was also found that about 95% of children living in war zones displayed signs of anxiety, depression, and trauma. In another study, it was found that children who lost their parents during the war were more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety, and PTSD in young adulthood.
The World Health Organization (WHO) conducted a study on the mental health impact of war during the Russia and Ukraine conflict. In their study, they had some interesting findings. The findings are presented below:
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- The study found that around 10% of people exposed to traumatic events may develop severe mental health problems, with an additional 10% experiencing behavioural issues that hinder their functionality. These issues typically manifest as depression, anxiety, and psychosomatic problems like insomnia.
- The study also found that those who consumed war-related content on social media were at risk of developing symptoms of trauma.
- The soldiers who are part of the war are at risk of experiencing long-term trauma. They may also face other consequences, such as increased homelessness and the highest suicide rates compared to other populations. Trauma in soldiers often leads to medical complications, family issues, unemployment, and substance use.
War or life in a war zone has a severe long-term mental health impact on the suffering population. This makes it important for war-prone nations to build effective mental health care systems for their citizens. It is extremely important for people who have been exposed to war-related trauma to seek professional help as soon as possible.
- Bereavement through conflict and war. (n.d.). Cruse Bereavement Support. Retrieved October 13, 2023, from https://www.cruse.org.uk/understanding-grief/grief-experiences/traumatic-loss/bereavement-through-conflict-and-war/
- Catani, C. (2018). The mental health of children living in war zones: A risk and protection perspective. World Psychiatry, 17(1), 104–105. https://doi.org/10.1002/wps.20496
- Communication, M. and. (2022, March 28). The Mental Health Effects of War: Backed by Science | University of Utah Health. https://healthcare.utah.edu/hmhi/news/2022/03/mental-health-effects-of-war-backed-science
- Grief and anger in southern Israel as fight against militants continues—The Washington Post. (n.d.). Retrieved October 13, 2023, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2023/10/08/israel-gaza-attack-hamas-war/
- How the Israel war, blockade affects the mental health of Palestinian children. (n.d.). Retrieved October 13, 2023, from https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/10/12/how-the-israel-war-blockade-affects-mental-health-of-palestinian-children
- Morina, N., von Lersner, U., & Prigerson, H. G. (2011). War and Bereavement: Consequences for Mental and Physical Distress. PLoS ONE, 6(7), e22140. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0022140
- Zasiekina, L., Zasiekin, S., & Kuperman, V. (2023). Post-traumatic Stress Disorder and Moral Injury Among Ukrainian Civilians During the Ongoing War. Journal of Community Health, 1–9. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10900-023-01225-5