Illness during military deployment linked to mental health problems, study finds

October 25, 2012
Illness during military deployment linked to mental health problems

Army personnel who become ill during deployment are just as likely to develop mental health problems on their return to the UK, as personnel who are injured, according to new research from the King's Centre for Military Health Research (KCMHR) at King's College London, published in BioMed Central's open access journal BMC Psychiatry.

Dr Nicola Fear, from KCMHR at King's and lead author of the paper, says: 'On returning home to the UK, injured personnel receive assistance and support from the military, whereas those who come back as a result of illness enter the general . We have identified a group of individuals who are possibly not receiving the help and support they need on their return from deployment.'

Dr Fear adds: 'We were really surprised by the results of the study. We found that the severity of the illness also impacts on post-deployment mental health – we found that the strongest link between illness and subsequent was amongst those who were medically evacuated.'

The study sample was made up of 3,896 UK Army personnel who participated in the KCMHR military between 2007 and 2009 and deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan between 2003 and 2009. Researchers analysed data on attendance to military field hospital for UK in Iraq and Afghanistan, and linked the data to the self-reported mental health outcomes (from the KCMHR military cohort) for UK Army personnel who were deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan.

Of this group, 6.8% (270/3896) had a record of attendance at the military field hospital for an illness during their deployment and 6.9% (261/3896) for injury. A total of 2.3% were medically evacuated back to the UK because of illness or injury.

Personnel who were admitted to a military field hospital for illness during deployment were 1.5 times (Adjusted OR 1.49) more likely to report having a common mental health problem post-deployment; and almost 3 times (Adjusted OR 2.79) more likely if they were medically evacuated due to illness. Common mental health problems included anxiety, depression and panic disorders.

Injured personnel were 1.5 times (Adjusted OR 1.52) more likely to report having a common mental health problem post-deployment if they were admitted to ; and 1.5 times (Adjusted OR 1.51) more likely if they were medically evacuated. Personnel who were medically evacuated due to injury were over 4 times (Adjusted OR 4.27) more likely to report probable PTSD post-deployment. In contrast, personnel who were returned to their unit after attending a military hospital for illness or injury were not at an increased risk of mental health problems post deployment.

Dr Fear says: 'The link between physical illness and mental health disorders is seen in civilian population. However, for Army personnel, we need to identify whether there is anything specific about their experiences of returning home due to illness which might result in subsequent mental health problems.'

Explore further: Post-deployment PTSD symptoms more common in military personnel with prior mental health disorders

More information: Forbes, H.J et al. 'What are the effects of having an illness or injury whilst deployed on post deployment mental health? A population based record study of UK Army personnel who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan' BMC Psychiatry. www.biomedcentral.com/bmcpsychiatry/

Related Stories

Post-deployment PTSD symptoms more common in military personnel with prior mental health disorders

May 2, 2011
Military service members who screened positive for mental health disorders before deployment, or who were injured during deployment, were more likely to develop post-deployment posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms ...

Study reveals health impacts on Defence families

September 20, 2012
(Medical Xpress)—Partners of Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel deployed multiple times were as physically and mentally well as those who had fewer deployments, a University of Queensland study shows.

Recommended for you

Researchers crack the smile, describing three types by muscle movement

July 27, 2017
The smile may be the most common and flexible expression, used to reveal some emotions, cover others and manage social interactions that have kept communities secure and organized for millennia.

Even babies can tell who's the boss, UW research says

July 27, 2017
The charismatic colleague, the natural leader, the life of the party - all are personal qualities that adults recognize instinctively. These socially dominant types, according to repeated studies, also tend to accomplish ...

Ketamine for depression encouraging, but questions remain around long-term use

July 27, 2017
A world-first systematic review into the safety of ketamine as a treatment for depression, published in the prestigious Lancet Psychiatry, shows the risks of long-term ketamine treatment remain unclear.

DREAMers at greater risk for mental health distress

July 27, 2017
Immigrants who came to the United States illegally as small children and who meet the requirements of the Development Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, more commonly known as DREAMers, are at risk for mental health ...

Negativity, be gone—new online tool can retrain your brain

July 27, 2017
Anxiety and depression can have devastating effects on people's lives. In some cases, the mental disorders lead to isolation, poverty and poor physical health, things that often cascade to future generations.

Research aims to shape more precise treatments for depression in women

July 27, 2017
Among women in the United States, depression is at epidemic levels: Approximately 12 million women in the U.S. experience clinical depression each year, and more than 12 percent of women can expect to experience depression ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.