Prevalence and Correlates of Depressive Symptoms among Former Prisoners of War

Studies of former prisoners of war (POWs) provide valuable insights into posttraumatic adaptation because they gather information from a large population who survived the traumatic experiences of military captivity. Previous studies of POWs have shown elevated rates of psychiatric symptoms and disorders. This report presents evidence from a longitudinal study of three large, representative, national samples of former POWs. The study finds that depressive symptomatology, as measured by the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale, is elevated in World War II POWs from the Pacific and European theaters and in Korean conflict POWs. Decades later, depressive symptomatology is found to be strongly associated with prior treatment in captivity. Differences in depressive symptomatology among the three POW groups can be attributed to captivity-related factors and to buffering factors, such as age at capture and education.