The Most Common Illnesses Suffered by Navy Personnel

doctorMembers of the U.S. Navy are critical to the well-being, protection and safety of the United States. Navy personnel often put themselves in grave danger, willingly expose themselves to a variety of infectious illnesses, and subject themselves to the risks associated with traumatic experiences or isolation. Common illnesses suffered by navy personnel range in severity; they include post-traumatic stress disorder and mental illness, respiratory illnesses, injury, and radiation sickness. Cancer is also a significant issue among Navy personnel. For instance, there are a substantial percentage of veterans with mesothelioma (typically as a consequence of asbestos exposure).

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Mental Illness 

Perhaps the most common afflictions suffered by navy personnel are post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and mental illness as a result of isolation and/or traumatic events. Particularly in war-torn regions, jobs in the navy often put service men and women in life-threatening or disturbing situations. Many of the service members affected with post-traumatic stress disorder also develop depression, isolation syndrome, eating disorders, or alcohol and drug abuse problems as a result of PTSD. The Navy Marine Corps Public Health Center provides many resources to help servicemen and women work towards resiliency and become psychologically well again.

Respiratory Illnesses

As more disease agents spread, bacterial resistance to antibiotics increases, resulting in more ineffective vaccines. Thus an influx of respiratory illnesses has occurred. In the navy, respiratory illnesses are often the main cause of a serviceman or woman seeking doctor visits. Because navy ships and submarines often mean close quarters for servicemen and women, respiratory illnesses spread quickly and are easily shared amongst personnel. There has also been a widespread influenza epidemic that has spread rapidly as a result of increased respiratory illnesses. The navy has been working diligently to reduce the spread of H1N1 and other forms of influenza. An influenza vaccine immunization program was held in October of 2013, and included a 7-day clinic that was designed specifically for navy sailors, navy personnel, and their family members.


Injuries are the leading cause of health issues in the U.S. military; injuries have become increasingly prevalent among navy personnel. In 2012, the majority of injuries accrued were in the form of sprains and strains, followed by contusions, fractures, and open wounds. The majority of these injuries occurred while navy personnel were engaging in activities involving land and transport (sprains and strains), guns and explosives (open wound injuries), and falls and slips (contusions).

Radiation Sickness

While less common historically, in recent years some U.S. Navy men and women have suffered from radiation sickness as a result of responding to the Japanese nuclear plant explosion in Fukushima. Some of the symptoms of radiation sickness experienced by service men and women have included rectal bleeding, thyroid problems, unyielding migraines, and an increased risk of developing cancer or other severe medical problems. One navy ship was just offshore from the Fukushima plant, and crewmembers were exposed to radiation that had leaked into the shore and was released into the air. Crewmembers were also exposed to radiation when cleaning the ship decks of snow and seawater (both contained levels of radiation). A legal battle has now ensued, with navy personnel seeking damages against the Japanese company known as TEPCO, which was responsible for the radiation exposure.


Martin Paddock is a freelance writer based in Arlington, WA. Veterans who have a mesothelioma based legal claim are strongly encouraged to contact Shrader Law, a law firm with a track record of success in this arena.


Comments (1)

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  1. WG says:

    To what degree are “radiation injuries” lawyer generated vs actual?

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