Forces Mental Health: Is There A Difference Between Occupational Groups?

Research Paper Title

Mental Health among Commando, Airborne and other UK Infantry Personnel.

Background

Despite having high levels of combat exposure, commando and airborne forces may be at less risk of mental ill-health than other troops.

Aim

To examine differences in mental health outcomes and occupational risk factors between Royal Marines Commandos (RMCs), paratroopers (PARAs) and other army infantry (INF).

Methods

Three groups of personnel (275 RMCs, 202 PARAs and 572 INF) were generated from a UK military cohort study of personnel serving at the time of the 2003 Iraq war. Participants completed a questionnaire about their mental health and experiences on deployment. Differences in mental health outcomes between the groups were examined with logistic regression and negative binomial regression analyses.

Results

Both RMCs and PARAs were less likely to have multiple physical symptoms or to be fatigued, and RMCs also had lower levels of general mental health problems and lower scores on the Post-traumatic Checklist than INF personnel. Differences were not explained by the level of unit cohesion.

Conclusions

The effect of warfare on troops’ well-being is not universal across occupational groups. A possible explanation for this difference is that the high level of preparedness in RMCs and PARAs may lessen the psychological impact of war-zone deployment experiences.

Reference

Sundin, J., Jones, N., Greenberg, N., Rona, R.J., Hotopf, M., Wessely, S. & Fear, N.T. (2010) Mental Health among Commando, Airborne and other UK Infantry Personnel. Occupational Medicine (London). 60(7), pp.552-559.

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