Health Assessment of Gulf War Veterans from Iowa

In April 1994, Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa requested that CDC conduct a health assessment of Gulf War veterans his state. The study was initiated in December 1994 and was conducted through a cooperative agreement between the Iowa Department of Public Health and CDC’s National Center for Environmental Health. The Iowa Department of Public Health contracted with investigators at the University of Iowa who took the lead in designing and conducting the study. From September 1995 through May 1996, a telephone survey was administered to 1,896 Gulf War veterans and to 1,799 military personnel who were not deployed to the Persian Gulf.

This was one of the first population-based epidemiologic studies to document that Gulf War veterans are reporting more medical and psychiatric conditions than their military peers. The study identified several conditions that need to be studied in more detail, including cognitive dysfunction, depression, chronic fatigue, post-traumatic stress disorder, and respiratory illness (asthma and bronchitis). The conditions identified in this study appear to have measurably affected the functional activity and daily lives of these Gulf War veterans. However, these conditions may not be unique to Gulf War veterans and may be similar to the experience of veterans in other wars. Among Gulf War veterans, minimal differences were observed between the National Guard or Reserve troops and the regular military personnel.


Iowa Persian Gulf Study Group. Self-reported illness and health status among Gulf War veterans: A population-based study. Journal of the American Medical Association 1997;277:238–45.

Black DW, Doebbeling BN, Voelker MD, Clarke WR, Woolson RF, Barrett DH, Schwartz DA. Quality of life and health-services utilization in a population-based sample of military personnel reporting multiple chemical sensitivities. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine 1999;41:928–33.

Black DW, Doebbeling BN, Voelker MD, Clarke WR, Woolson RF, Barrett DH, Schwartz DA. Multiple chemical sensitivity syndrome: Symptom prevalence and risk factors in a military population. Archives of Internal Medicine 2000;160:1169–76.

Doebbeling BN, Clarke WR, Watson D, Torner JC, Woolson RF, Voelker MD, Barrett DH, Schwartz DA. Is there a Persian Gulf War syndrome? Evidence from a large population-based survey of veterans and nondeployed controls. American Journal of Medicine 2000;108:695–704.

Zwerling C, Torner JC, Clarke WR, Voelker MD, Doebbeling BN, Barrett DH, et al. Self-reported postwar injuries among Gulf War veterans. Public Health Reports 2000;115:346–9.

Doebbeling BN, Jones MF, Hall DB, Clarke WR, Woolson RF, Torner JC, et al. Methodologic issues in a population-based health survey of Gulf War veterans. Journal of Clinical Epidemiology 2002;55:477–87.

Barrett DH, Doebbeling B, Voelker MD, Doebbeling CC, Falter K, Woolson R, Schwartz DA. Post-traumatic stress disorder and physical health status among military personnel service during the Gulf War period. Psychosomatics 2002;43:195–205.

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Page last reviewed: October 29, 2010 (archived document)