This article addresses conceptual and theoretical issues concerning how the duration of deployment to a combat theater of operations may impact the mental health of deployed troops. A core principle of occupational medicine, critical to this aim, is to identify hazardous exposures in the workplace and defi ne levels of acceptable exposure to those hazards. The known relationship between combat exposure and combat stress reactions, and the long-term risk of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), is well established. However, the critical issue of the duration of exposure and its impact on the delayed emergence of symptoms has not been analyzed. To date, the literature has not considered the underlying mechanisms that might mediate the adverse effects of duration of deployment in relation to PTSD.
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