Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from BMC Psychiatry and BioMed Central.

Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

The prevalence of common mental disorders and PTSD in the UK military: using data from a clinical interview-based study

Amy C Iversen1*, Lauren van Staden1, Jamie Hacker Hughes2, Tess Browne1, Lisa Hull1, John Hall3, Neil Greenberg2, Roberto J Rona1, Matthew Hotopf1, Simon Wessely1 and Nicola T Fear2

Author Affiliations

1 King's Centre for Military Health Research, Institute of Psychiatry, Department of Psychological Medicine, Cutcombe Road, Denmark Hill, London, SE5 9RJ, UK

2 Academic Centre for Defence Mental Health, Institute of Psychiatry, Department of Psychological Medicine, Cutcombe Road, Denmark Hill, London, SE5 9RJ, UK

3 Health Care and Social Care Advisory Service (HASCAS), 11-13 Cavendish Square, London W1G 0AN, UK

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Psychiatry 2009, 9:68  doi:10.1186/1471-244X-9-68

Published: 30 October 2009

Abstract

Background

The mental health of the Armed Forces is an important issue of both academic and public interest. The aims of this study are to: a) assess the prevalence and risk factors for common mental disorders and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms, during the main fighting period of the Iraq War (TELIC 1) and later deployments to Iraq or elsewhere and enlistment status (regular or reserve), and b) compare the prevalence of depression, PTSD symptoms and suicidal ideation in regular and reserve UK Army personnel who deployed to Iraq with their US counterparts.

Methods

Participants were drawn from a large UK military health study using a standard two phase survey technique stratified by deployment status and engagement type. Participants undertook a structured telephone interview including the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ) and a short measure of PTSD (Primary Care PTSD, PC-PTSD). The response rate was 76% (821 participants).

Results

The weighted prevalence of common mental disorders and PTSD symptoms was 27.2% and 4.8%, respectively. The most common diagnoses were alcohol abuse (18.0%) and neurotic disorders (13.5%). There was no health effect of deploying for regular personnel, but an increased risk of PTSD for reservists who deployed to Iraq and other recent deployments compared to reservists who did not deploy. The prevalence of depression, PTSD symptoms and subjective poor health were similar between regular US and UK Iraq combatants.

Conclusion

The most common mental disorders in the UK military are alcohol abuse and neurotic disorders. The prevalence of PTSD symptoms remains low in the UK military, but reservists are at greater risk of psychiatric injury than regular personnel.