New research from King’s College London suggests the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan may have led to an increase in the rate of probable Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) among members of the UK Armed Forces.
The results, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry today, estimate the overall rate of probable PTSD among current and ex-serving military personnel to be 6% in 2014/16, compared to 4% in 2004/6. The study also found the rate of alcohol misuse has fallen from 15% in 2004/6 to 10% in 2014/16.
Large scale studies rule out individual clinical assessments for PTSD, therefore participants were considered to have probable PTSD if they scored 50 or more on the PTSD checklist questionnaire, in line with international research standards.
The increase in rates of probable PTSD is primarily seen among ex-serving personnel who deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. Among those who deployed to the conflicts, the rate of probable PTSD for veterans was 9% compared to 5% for veterans who did not deploy. The rate of probable PTSD among currently serving personnel was also 5%, which is close to the rate of PTSD in the general population.
Lead author Dr Sharon Stevelink, from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN), said: ‘For the first time we have identified that the risk of PTSD for veterans deployed in conflicts was substantially higher than the risk for those still serving. While the increase among veterans is a concern, not every veteran has been deployed and in general only about one in three would have been deployed in a combat role.’
Among ex-serving personnel who deployed in a combat role to Iraq or Afghanistan, 17% reported symptoms suggesting probable PTSD compared to 6% of those deployed in a support role such as medical, logistics, signals and aircrew.
The findings are from the third phase of a major cohort study by the King’s Centre for Military Health Research, which has been running since 2003 and is funded by the Ministry of Defence. Of 8093 participants included in the third phase of the study, 62% had deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan.