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Post-traumatic growth (PTG) refers to beneficial psychological change following trauma.
This study explores the sociodemographic, health and deployment-related factors associated with PTG in serving/ex-serving UK armed forces personnel deployed to military operations in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Multinomial logistic regression analyses were applied to retrospective questionnaire data collected 2014–2016, stratified by gender. PTG scores were split into tertiles of no/very low PTG, low PTG and moderate/large PTG.
A total of 1447/4610 male personnel (30.8%) and 198/570 female personnel (34.8%) reported moderate/large PTG. Male personnel were more likely to report moderate/large PTG compared with no/very low PTG if they reported a greater belief of being in serious danger (relative risk ratio (RRR) 2.47, 95% CI 1.68–3.64), were a reservist (RRR 2.37, 95% CI 1.80–3.11), reported good/excellent general health (fair/poor general health: RRR 0.33, 95% CI 0.24–0.46), a greater number of combat experiences, less alcohol use, better mental health, were of lower rank or were younger. Female personnel were more likely to report moderate/large PTG if they were single (in a relationship: RRR 0.40, 95% CI 0.22–0.74), had left military service (RRR 2.34, 95% CI 1.31–4.17), reported better mental health (common mental disorder: RRR 0.37, 95% CI 0.17–0.84), were a reservist, reported a greater number of combat experiences or were younger. Post-traumatic stress disorder had a curvilinear relationship with PTG.
A moderate/large degree of PTG among the UK armed forces is associated with mostly positive health experiences, except for post-traumatic stress disorder.
Post-traumatic growth (PTG) is a positive psychological consequence of trauma. The aims of this study were to investigate whether combat injury was associated with deployment-related PTG in a cohort of UK military personnel who were deployed to Afghanistan, and whether post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and pain mediate this relationship.
521 physically injured (n = 138 amputation; n = 383 non-amputation injury) and 514 frequency-matched uninjured personnel completed questionnaires including the deployment-related Post-Traumatic Growth Inventory (DPTGI). DPTGI scores were categorised into tertiles of: no/low (score 0–20), moderate (score 21–34) or a large (35–63) degree of deployment-related PTG. Analysis was completed using generalised structural equation modelling.
A large degree of PTG was reported by 28.0% (n = 140) of the uninjured group, 36.9% (n = 196) of the overall injured group, 45.4% (n = 62) of amputee and 34.1% (n = 134) of the non-amputee injured subgroups. Combat injury had a direct effect on reporting a large degree of PTG [Relative risk ratio (RRR) 1.59 (95% confidence interval (CI) 1.17–2.17)] compared to sustaining no injury. Amputation injuries also had a significant direct effect [RRR 2.18 (95% CI 1.24–3.75)], but non-amputation injuries did not [RRR 1.35 (95% CI 0.92–1.93)]. PTSD, depression and pain partially mediate this relationship, though mediation differed depending on the injury subtype. PTSD had a curvilinear relationship with PTG, whilst depression had a negative association and pain had a positive association.
Combat injury, in particular injury resulting in traumatic amputation, is associated with reporting a large degree of PTG.
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.
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