Hospital admissions for non-communicable disease in the UK military and associations with alcohol use and mental health: A data linkage study

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Background – Since the recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, the short-term focus of military healthcare research has been on the consequences of deployment for mental health and on those wounded or injured in combat. Now that these conflicts have ended for the UK Armed Forces, it is important to consider the longer term physical and mental health consequences, and just as importantly, the links between these. The aims of this study were to determine the most common physical conditions requiring a hospital admission in UK military personnel and whether they were more common in personnel with a mental health condition, smokers, and/or those misusing alcohol compared to those without.

Methods - Data linkage of a prospective UK military cohort study to electronic admitted patient care records for England, Wales and Scotland. 9990 military personnel completed phase 2 of a military cohort study (56% response rate, data collected from 2007-2009), with analyses restricted to 86% of whom provided consent for linkage to healthcare records (n=8602). Ninety percent were male and the mean age at phase 2 was 36 years. The outcome was physical non communicable diseases (NCDs) requiring a hospital admission which occurred after phase 2 of the cohort when the mental health, smoking and alcohol use exposure variables had been assessed until the end of March 2014.

Results - The most common NCDs requiring a hospital admission were gastrointestinal disorders 5.62% (95% Confidence Intervals (CI) 5.04, 6.19) and joint disorders 5.60% (95% CI 5.02, 6.18). Number of NCDs requiring a hospital admission was significantly higher in those with a common mental disorder (Hazard ratio (HR) 1.40 (95% CI 1.16-1.68), post-traumatic stress disorder (HR 1.78 (95% CI 1.32-2.40)) and in current smokers (HR 1.35 (95% CI 1.12-1.64) compared to those without the disorder, and non-smokers, respectively.

Conclusions - Military personnel with a mental health problem are more likely to have an inpatient hospital admission for NCDs compared to those without, evidencing the clear links between physical and mental health in this population.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBMC Public Health
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 1 Aug 2020


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