Background: In 2003 a total of 43 soldiers in the Israel Defense Forces committed suicide; only 20% of them were known to the IDF mental health services. Somatic symptoms are often the only presentation of emotional distress during the primary care visit and may be the key to early identification and treatment.
Objectives: To examine whether the information in the medical records of soldiers can be used to identify those suffering from anxiety, affective or somatoform disorder.
Methods: We conducted a case-control study using the information in the electronic medical records of soldiers who during their 3 year service developed affective disorder, anxiety, or somatoform disorder. A control group was matched for recruitment date, type of unit and occupation in the service, and the Performance Prediction Score. The number and reasons for physician visits were collated.
Results: The files of 285 soldiers were examined: 155 cases and 130 controls. The numbers of visits (mean SD) during the 3 and 6 month periods in the case and control groups were 4.7 ± 3.3 and 7.1 ± 5.0, and 4.1 ± 2.9 and 5.9 ± 4.6 respectively. The difference was statistically significant only for the 6 month period (P < 0.05). The variables that remained significant, after stepwise multivariate regression were the Performance Prediction Score and the presenting complaints of back pain and diarrhea.
Conclusions: These findings may spur the development of a computer-generated warning for the primary care physician who will then be able to interview his or her patient appropriately and identify mental distress earlier.