Mental health of UK armed forces medical personnel post-deployment


This paper explores the mental health effects of deployment on military medical staff.


The mental health effects of deployment vary widely, and personnel in both combat and combat support roles, including medical personnel, may be adversely affected. To compare the mental health of deployed UK military medical staff in both forward and rear locations and to compare these two groups with other deployed military personnel. Participants were medics who had deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan and provided information about their deployed role, experiences during and on return from deployment and demographic and military factors. Health outcomes included common mental health problems (using 12-item General Health Questionnaire), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD, using 17-item Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Checklist—Civilian Version), multiple physical symptoms and alcohol use (using 10-item Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test). The sample comprised 321 medical personnel. The response rate was 56%. The mental health outcomes for forward located medics (FMs) were no different than those for rear located medics (RLMs). When comparing FMs and RLMs against all other military roles, a small but significant increase in PTSD symptoms in FMs was found. FMs were more likely to rate their work while deployed as being above their skills and experience, report exposure to more combat experiences and report a more challenging homecoming experience than RLMs. These results suggest that while the overall rates of self-reported mental health disorders were similar in FMs and RLMs, FMs reported more PTSD symptoms than all other roles, which may have been related to working in more hostile environments in more challenging roles while deployed and their experiences on returning home.

Full Reference

Cawkill, P, Jones, M, Fear, NT, Jones, N, Fertout, M, Wessely, S & Greenberg, N, 2015. 'Mental health of UK armed forces medical personnel post-deployment' Occupational Medicine, 65(2), pp. 157-164. DOI: 10.1093/occmed/kqu200.