Mental Health Disorders Stable Among U.K. Military Personnel

But those deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan have higher risk of alcohol misuse
By Jeff Muise
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, May 13 (HealthDay News) -- From 2003 to 2009, the prevalence of mental health disorders, such as anxiety and depression, among military personnel from the United Kingdom remained stable, although those deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan have an increased risk of alcohol misuse compared with those who have not been deployed, according to a study published online May 13 in The Lancet.

Nicola T. Fear, of King's College London, and colleagues reassessed the prevalence of probable mental disorders in military personnel from their previous (2003 to 2005) study and also studied two new samples of randomly chosen personnel: those who had recently deployed to Afghanistan and those who had joined the military in the United Kingdom since April 2003. Participants completed a questionnaire between November 2007 and September 2009.

A total of 9,990 subjects responded to the survey, including 8,278 military regulars and 1,712 reservists. The survey found a 4 percent prevalence of probable post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a 19.7 percent prevalence of symptoms of common mental disorders, and a 13 percent prevalence of alcohol misuse. Deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan was significantly associated with probable PTSD for reservists (odds ratio [OR], 2.83), and with alcohol misuse for regular soldiers (OR, 1.22). Regular soldiers who served in combat roles were more likely to report probable PTSD than those in support roles (OR, 1.87). No association was found for multiple deployments and any outcome.

"Our main finding is that, overall, the prevalence of mental disorders in the U.K. armed forces remained stable between 2003 and 2009," the authors write. "Findings from this study suggest that the mental health of the U.K. armed forces has not changed since our initial study. This finding, although reassuring, is also surprising."

Two study authors reported being members of the British Army and Royal Naval Services. One author reported ties to Johnson & Johnson and GlaxoSmithKline.

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