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For a small minority of personnel, military service can have a negative impact on their mental health. Yet no studies have assessed how the mental health of UK veterans (who served during the recent operations in Afghanistan or Iraq) compares to non-veterans, to determine if they are at a disadvantage. We examine the prevalence of mental disorders and alcohol misuse in UK veterans compared to non-veterans.
Veteran data were taken from the third phase of the King's Centre for Military Health Research cohort study (n = 2917). These data were compared with data on non-veterans taken from two large general population surveys: 2014 Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey (n = 5871) and wave 6 of the UK Household Longitudinal Study (UKHLS, n = 22 760).
We found that, overall, UK veterans who served at the time of recent military operations were more likely to report a significantly higher prevalence of common mental disorders (CMD) (23% v. 16%), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) (8% v. 5%) and alcohol misuse (11% v. 6%) than non-veterans. Stratifying by gender showed that the negative impact of being a veteran on mental health and alcohol misuse was restricted to male veterans. Being ill or disabled was associated with a higher prevalence of CMD and PTSD for both veterans and non-veterans.
Whilst the same sociodemographic groups within the veteran and non-veteran populations seemed to have an increased risk of mental health problems (e.g. those who were unemployed), male veterans, in particular, appear to be at a distinct disadvantage compared to those who have never served.
A proportion of ex-military personnel who develop mental health and social problems end up in the Criminal Justice System. A government review called for better understanding of pathways to offending among ex-military personnel to improve services and reduce reoffending. We utilised data linkage with criminal records to examine the patterns of offending among military personnel after they leave service and the associated risk (including mental health and alcohol problems) and socio-economic protective factors.
Questionnaire data from a cohort study of 13 856 randomly selected UK military personnel were linked with national criminal records to examine changes in the rates of offending after leaving service.
All types of offending increased after leaving service, with violent offending being the most prevalent. Offending was predicted by mental health and alcohol problems: probable PTSD, symptoms of common mental disorder and aggressive behaviour (verbal, property and threatened or actual physical aggression). Reduced risk of offending was associated with post-service socio-economic factors: absence of debt, stable housing and relationship satisfaction. These factors were associated with a reduced risk of offending in the presence of mental health risk factors.
Ex-military personnel are more likely to commit violent offences after leaving service than other offence-types. Mental health and alcohol problems are associated with increased risk of post-service offending, and socio-economic stability is associated with reduced risk of offending among military veterans with these problems. Efforts to reduce post-service offending should encompass management of socio-economic risk factors as well as mental health.
Military personnel operate within the relatively closed environment of the Armed Forces (AF), which has a distinct culture that is broadly separate from the rest of society (Bergman et al., 2014). They are required to carry out duties that may lead to them being injured or killed and, often, the decision about whether to risk one’s life is not in the hands of the individual whose life is being risked. The social bonds between military personnel and their colleagues and their families, and with wider society, are worthy of some scrutiny. There is plenty of evidence that slightly less than 200,000 UK regular and reserve personnel are able to carry out the most arduous and dangerous of duties at least in part because of the close-knit and, in the main, supportive social networks that are characteristic of the AF.
Little is known about the prevalence of mental health outcomes in UK personnel at the end of the British involvement in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts.
We examined the prevalence of mental disorders and alcohol misuse, whether this differed between serving and ex-serving regular personnel and by deployment status.
This is the third phase of a military cohort study (2014–2016; n = 8093). The sample was based on participants from previous phases (2004–2006 and 2007–2009) and a new randomly selected sample of those who had joined the UK armed forces since 2009.
The prevalence was 6.2% for probable post-traumatic stress disorder, 21.9% for common mental disorders and 10.0% for alcohol misuse. Deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan and a combat role during deployment were associated with significantly worse mental health outcomes and alcohol misuse in ex-serving regular personnel but not in currently serving regular personnel.
The findings highlight an increasing prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder and a lowering prevalence of alcohol misuse compared with our previous findings and stresses the importance of continued surveillance during service and beyond.
Declaration of interest:
All authors are based at King's College London which, for the purpose of this study and other military-related studies, receives funding from the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD). S.A.M.S., M.J., L.H., D.P., S.M. and R.J.R. salaries were totally or partially paid by the UK MoD. The UK MoD provides support to the Academic Department of Military Mental Health, and the salaries of N.J., N.G. and N.T.F. are covered totally or partly by this contribution. D.Mu. is employed by Combat Stress, a national UK charity that provides clinical mental health services to veterans. D.MacM. is the lead consultant for an NHS Veteran Mental Health Service. N.G. is the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ Lead for Military and Veterans’ Health, a trustee of Walking with the Wounded, and an independent director at the Forces in Mind Trust; however, he was not directed by these organisations in any way in relation to his contribution to this paper. N.J. is a full-time member of the armed forces seconded to King's College London. N.T.F. reports grants from the US Department of Defense and the UK MoD, is a trustee (unpaid) of The Warrior Programme and an independent advisor to the Independent Group Advising on the Release of Data (IGARD). S.W. is a trustee (unpaid) of Combat Stress and Honorary Civilian Consultant Advisor in Psychiatry for the British Army (unpaid). S.W. is affiliated to the National Institute for Health Research Health Protection Research Unit (NIHR HPRU) in Emergency Preparedness and Response at King's College London in partnership with Public Health England, in collaboration with the University of East Anglia and Newcastle University. The views expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the National Health Service, the NIHR, the Department of Health, Public Health England or the UK MoD.
Research into violence among military personnel has not differentiated between stranger- and family-directed violence. While military factors (combat exposure and post-deployment mental health problems) are risk factors for general violence, there has been limited research on their impact on violence within the family environment. This study aims to compare the prevalence of family-directed and stranger-directed violence among a deployed sample of UK military personnel and to explore risk factors associated with both family- and stranger-directed violence.
This study utilised data from a large cohort study which collected information by questionnaire from a representative sample of randomly selected deployed UK military personnel (n = 6711).
The prevalence of family violence immediately following return from deployment was 3.6% and 7.8% for stranger violence. Family violence was significantly associated with having left service, while stranger violence was associated with younger age, male gender, being single, having a history of antisocial behaviour as well as having left service. Deployment in a combat role was significantly associated with both family and stranger violence after adjustment for confounders [adjusted odds ratio (aOR) = 1.92 (1.25–2.94), p = 0.003 and aOR = 1.77 (1.31–2.40), p < 0.001, respectively], as was the presence of symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, common mental disorders and aggression.
Exposure to combat and post-deployment mental health problems are risk factors for violence both inside and outside the family environment and should be considered in violence reduction programmes for military personnel. Further research using a validated measurement tool for family violence would improve comparability with other research.
There is growing risk from terrorism following radicalisation of young
men. It is unclear whether psychopathology is associated.
To investigate the population distribution of extremist views among UK
Cross-sectional study of 3679 men, 18–34 years, in Great Britain.
Multivariate analyses of attitudes, psychiatric morbidity, ethnicity and
Pro-British men were more likely to be White, UK born, not religious;
anti-British were Muslim, religious, of Pakistani origin, from deprived
areas. Pro- and anti-British views were linearly associated with violence
(adjusted odds ratio (OR) = 1.51, 95% CI 1.38–1.64,
P<0.001, adjusted OR = 1.33, 95% CI 1.13–1.58,
P<0.001, respectively) and negatively with
depression (adjusted OR = 0.72, 95% CI 0.61–0.85,
P<0.001, adjusted OR = 0.64, 95% CI 0.48–0.86,
P = 0.003, respectively).
Men at risk of depression may experience protection from strong cultural
or religious identity. Antisocial behaviour increases with extremism.
Religion is protective but may determine targets of violence following