This study aims to identify characteristics and mental health conditions associated with being an early Service leaver (ESL). This research investigates notions that being an ESL is associated with younger age, female sex, not being in a relationship, lower rank, serving in the Army and with a trend of reporting higher levels of childhood adversity. Furthermore, current mental health problems are more commonly reported among ESLs than other Service leavers and therefore consideration of the mental health of ESLs warrants further attention.
Approximately 18,000 personnel leave the UK Armed Forces annually. Those leaving before completing the minimum term of their contracts are called early Service leavers (ESLs). This study aims to identify characteristics associated with being an ESL, and compare the post-discharge mental health of ESLs and other Service leavers (non-ESLs). In this study, of 845 Service leavers, 80 (9.5%) were ESLs. Being an ESL was associated with younger age, female sex, not being in a relationship, lower rank, serving in the Army and with a trend of reporting higher levels of childhood adversity, but not with deployment to Iraq. ESLs were at an increased risk of probable post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), common mental disorders, fatigue and multiple physical symptoms, but not alcohol misuse. The study suggests that operational Service is not a factor causing personnel to become an ESL. Current mental health problems were more commonly reported among ESLs than other Service leavers. There may be a need to target interventions to ESLs on leaving Service to smooth their transition to civilian life and prevent the negative mental health outcomes experienced by ESLs further down the line.
Joshua E. J. Buckman, Harriet J. Forbes, Tim Clayton, Margaret Jones, Norman Jones, Neil Greenberg, Josefin Sundin, Lisa Hull, Simon Wessely, Nicola T. Fear, 2012, European Journal of Public Health, Early Service leavers: a study of the factors associated with premature separation from the UK Armed Forces and the mental health of those that leave early, 23, 3, 410-415.