UK military personnel at increased risk of violent offending

March 14, 2013, Lancet

Most strikingly, the study found that the proportion of young servicemen (under 30 years old) with a conviction for violent offending was much higher than among men of a similar age in the general population (20.6% vs 6.7%).

"There has been a lot of media coverage and public debate about violence committed by veterans of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our study, which used official criminal records, found that violent offending was most common among young men from the lower ranks of the Army and was strongly associated with a history of violent offending before joining the military. Serving in a combat role and on deployment also increased the risk of ", explains Dr Deirdre MacManus from King's College London, who led the research.

The first large-scale study of its kind, linked data from 13,856 randomly selected serving and ex-serving UK military personnel with national criminal records to assess the impact of deployment (serving in Iraq or Afghanistan), combat exposure, and post-deployment mental health problems on subsequent offending behaviour.

The researchers found that 17% of male service personnel in the study had a criminal record. Whilst overall lifetime offending (all offences from theft to assault) in the military was lower than in the general population, lifetime violent offending (ranging from threats of violence to serious or worse) was more common among (11% vs 8.7%).

Pre-military history of violence, younger age, and lower rank were the strongest risk factors for violent offending. Men who were deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan with direct combat exposure were 53% more likely to commit a violent offence than men serving in a non-combat role. Witnessing on deployment also increased the risk of violent offending.

, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and high levels of self-reported on return from deployment were also found to be strong predictors of subsequent violent offending.

According to Dr MacManus, "The findings provide information that can enable better violence risk assessment in serving and ex-serving military personnel. They draw attention to the role of and the potential effect that appropriate management of alcohol misuse, post-traumatic stress disorder, especially hyperarousal symptoms, and aggressive behaviour could have in reducing the risk of violence.

Writing in a linked Comment, David Forbes, Director of the Australian Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health, University of Melbourne, Australia and Richard Bryant from the University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia say, "[These findings] show for the first time the link between combat and interpersonal violence…[and] draw attention to the need for a more concerted effort to understand the specific mechanisms that affect how the experiences of combat can enhance risk of violence after deployment. By understanding these factors, we might develop more informed prevention and intervention programmes for troops as they reintegrate into civilian life."

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

More information: … (12)60354-2/abstract

Related Stories

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

October 25, 2012
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 ...

Study identifies factors related to violence in veterans

June 25, 2012
A national survey identifies which U.S. military veterans may be at most risk of aggression after deployment and what strategies could potentially help reduce likelihood of violence when service members return home.

Recommended for you

Hep C compounds alcoholism's effect on brain volume

March 16, 2018
(HealthDay)—Alcohol dependence has deleterious effects on frontal cortical volumes that are compounded by hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection and drug dependence, according to a study published online March 14 in JAMA Psychiatry.

Study with infants suggests language not necessary for reasoning ability

March 16, 2018
A team of researchers from Spain, Hungary and Poland has found via a study with infants that language may not be a necessity for the ability to reason. In their paper published in the journal Science, the group describes ...

Older adults' difficulties with focusing can be used to help put a face to a name

March 16, 2018
Everyone has experienced the awkward situation of meeting someone and then forgetting their name shortly after. Among older adults, this happens more often than not.

A little anger in negotiation pays

March 16, 2018
During negotiations, high-intensity anger elicits smaller concessions than moderate-intensity anger, according to a new study by management and business experts at Rice University and Northwestern University.

Study casts doubt on ketamine nasal sprays for depression

March 16, 2018
Researchers from the Black Dog Institute and UNSW Sydney have questioned the efficacy and safety of intranasal ketamine for depression, with their pilot trial stopped early due to poor side effects in patients.

Research reveals brain mechanism involved in language learning

March 15, 2018
Learning a new language may be more of a science than an art, a University of Sussex study finds.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

1 / 5 (1) Mar 14, 2013
The Lancet. Their bias is as subtle as a an elephant with enteritis while their integrity was balled up and rolled away by dung beatles long ago.

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.