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Friday, 20th December 2013

The Last Ambush? Aspects of Mental Health in the British Armed Forces

Source: ForcesWatch (UK)

Research of mental health in military groups has developed appreciably since the Vietnam War but the problems of accurately defining and reliably measuring the mental health effects of an armed forces career have yet to be addressed satisfactorily. The limitations of research methods lead to substantial under-reporting of psychological ill-health in military groups. Narrow definitions of mental health problems, the common absence of anonymity for participants in studies, and the unpredictability and complexity of veterans’ reactions to traumatic stress, are all significant limitations on the reliability and validity of the available evidence base. Despite this, research contributes important insights into which groups within a military population are most affected and why.

Most of the quantitative research in the UK is directly funded by the Ministry of Defence, which has increased its contribution to this work in the last decade. This development, while welcome, also constrains the scope of the research: the Ministry of Defence is able to determine, through funding decisions, which research questions are investigated.

Noting these limitations, this report draws on the available research of six indicators of mental health pathology in order to investigate the relative risks for different groups within the armed forces and with comparison to the general population. These indicators are: post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), common mental disorders (types of depression and anxiety), alcohol misuse (‘harmful’ levels of drinking), violent behaviour after deployment, self-harm, and suicide...The evidence base is comprised of 41 quantitative British studies that have researched relevant aspects of the six mental health-related outcomes discussed in this report. These sources are supplemented by the findings of 10 US quantitative studies and around 100 further published sources, as well as informal interviews with veterans.

+ Full Report (PDF; 1.3 MB)

+ Executive Summary (PDF; 274 KB)

+ Press Release



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Having begun his career in academic libraries, Adrian Janes has subsequently worked extensively in public libraries, chiefly in enquiry work as an Information Services librarian. In this role he has had particular responsibility for information from both the UK Government and the European Union. He wrote a detailed report on sources for the latter which was published by FreePint in 2007, and has contributed articles to FreePint and ResourceShelf. He is involved in training in information literacy and the use of online reference resources.

A Contributing Editor to DocuTicker, he also write reviews for Pennyblackmusic.

Adrian can be reached at adrian.janes@freepint.com

More articles by Adrian Janes »

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