Psychological Problems: Are They Associated with Military Service Later in Life or a Feature of Ageing?

Research Paper Title

The impact of military service on the mental health of older UK veterans: A qualitative study.


There may be ongoing psychological problems associated with military service later in life; yet as the elderly in the general population also suffer from mental health problems, whether such issues can be attributed to military service or are a feature of ageing remains unclear. This study aimed to explore veteran and non-veteran perceptions of the impact of their occupation on their psychological well-being later in life.


Twenty-five veterans (≥65 y); 25 nonveterans (≥65 y); 10 veterans with diagnoses of mental health issues (≥65 y); and a close companion of all participants (≥18 y, spouse, child, and close friend) were recruited. Using a qualitative approach, participants completed semistructured qualitative interviews with measures of psychological adjustment used to describe the sample.


Veterans were found to experience higher levels of workplace stress and trauma exposure compared with non-veterans. When such challenges were positively appraised, veterans described increased confidence and resilience. Social support in response to occupational stress was central to veteran and non-veteran well-being, especially for those with mental health problems. Nonetheless, providing support was challenging for close companions, with many feeling overwhelmed and requiring additional guidance from the veteran’s clinical care team.


The findings delineate the impact of occupation on the well-being of older veterans and non-veterans. The results illustrated the psychological support needs and formal guidance desired by veterans, non-veterans, and their families, which could ultimately improve coping of both the individual and family.


Williamson, V., Harwood, H., Greenberg, K., Stevelink, S.A.M. & Greenberg, N. (2019) The impact of military service on the mental health of older UK veterans: A qualitative study. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry. doi: 10.1002/gps.5131. [Epub ahead of print].


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