Comparing the Attitudes of the General Population & UK Armed Forces to Mental Illness

Research Paper Title

Attitudes to Mental Illness in the U.K. Military: A Comparison With the General Population.


To compare attitudes to mental illness in the U.K. military and in the general population in England.


Using data from a cross-sectional survey of 821 U.K. military personnel and a separate cross-sectional survey of 1,729 members of the general population in England, levels of agreement with five statements about mental illness were compared in the military and the general population.


The majority of respondents from both populations showed positive attitudes toward mental illness. The general population showed slightly more positive attitudes toward integrating people with mental illness into the community (68.0% [65.7%–70.1%] agreed that “People with mental illness have the same rights to a job as everyone else,” vs. 56.7% [51.5%–61.7%] of the military). However, the general population showed more negative attitudes about the causes of mental illness (62.4% [60.1%–64.6%] disagreed that “One of the main causes of mental illness is a lack of self-discipline and willpower,” vs. 81.3% [77.0%–84.9%] of the military).


Overall, attitudes toward mental illness are comparable in the general population in England and the U.K. military. Differences included the military holding more positive attitudes about the causes of mental illness, but more negatives attitudes about job rights of those with mental illness. Strategies aiming to improve attitudes toward mental illness could focus particularly on personnel’s concerns around mental illness impacting on their career.


Forbes, H.J., Boyd, C.F.S., Jones, N., Greenberg, N., Jones, E., Wessely, S., Iversen, A.C. & Fear, N.T. (2013) Attitudes to Mental Illness in the U.K. Military: A Comparison With the General Population. Military Medicine. 178(9), p.957-965.


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