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PTSD Rates Rise Among UK Military Personnel And Veterans

A new study finds veterans who have been in combat have the highest rate of post-traumatic stress disorder.

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The rate of PTSD in the general UK population is around 4 to 5% (Picture: MoD).

Conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan may have led to an increase in rates of post-traumatic stress disorder among Britain's armed forces, according to a new study.

The research, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, found the overall rate of PTSD among current and ex-serving military personnel was 6% in 2014-2016 compared with 4% ten years previously.

It found the increase in PTSD rates was mainly seen among ex-serving personnel who had been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan with the highest rates among those who had seen active combat.

Seventeen per cent reported symptoms suggesting PTSD, compared to 6% of those deployed in a support role such as medical, logistics, signals and aircrew.

The rate of PTSD in the general UK population is around 4 to 5%.

UK Troops in Afghanistan
Combat troops have higher rates of PTSD

The findings are from the third phase of a major cohort study by King's College London, which has been running since 2003 and is funded by the Ministry of Defence.

Sir Simon Wessely, senior author and professor of psychiatry at King's College said: "Our results suggest the risk of mental ill-health is carried by those who have left the service, and that part of the legacy of conflicts on mental health has taken time to reveal itself.

"However, it would be wrong to say there is a 'bow wave', 'tsunami' or 'time bomb' of PTSD in the UK military and veteran community."

He went on to say that the study supports the current focus on providing and improving mental health services for both serving personnel and veterans.

Anonymous personnel
Veterans have higher rates of PTSD than serving personnel.

The study found in 2014/16, the rate of probable PTSD among ex-regular veterans was 7.4%, compared to 4.8% among those currently serving as regular personnel.

The researchers said one reason PTSD may be more common among veterans is that personnel who are mentally unwell are more likely to leave the armed forces.

Rates of common mental disorders has remained at about 20% between 2004/06 and 2014/16 while alcohol misuse has fallen from 15% to 10%.

A Government spokeswoman said: "We take the well-being of our personnel extremely seriously and we fund research so we can continue to improve the way we support them.

"Military personnel receive stress management training before, during and after operational deployments, and consultant psychiatrists are available by phone 24/7, should individuals require support."

The findings were based on questionnaire responses from more than 8,000 current and former members of the armed forces.

Dr Walter Busuttil, Medical Director at Combat Stress, said: "We’re not at all surprised by the findings of this research as it reflects what we see at Combat Stress.

"Of the veterans we treat, 92% have two or more mental health conditions and almost 80% have served in a combat role.

"In the last decade, the number of veterans seeking help from our charity, particularly from those who served in Afghanistan and Iraq, has increased by 97% with more than 2,000 new veterans now coming to us each year.

"For the first time ever, the rate of PTSD is higher among veterans than serving personnel and the public.

"It’s alarmingly high among those veterans who served in combat – and it’s these veterans who are the most unwell and in urgent need of treatment."