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Longitudinal survey of UK veterans with pre-existing mental health difficulties: mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Dominic Murphy, Laura Hendrikx, Charlotte Williamson, Julia Baumann

Original languageEnglish
Article number002046
JournalBMJ Military Health
Early online date25 Jan 2022
Accepted/In press8 Jan 2022
E-pub ahead of print25 Jan 2022
Published25 Jan 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright: © Author(s) (or their employer(s)) 2022. No commercial re-use. See rights and permissions. Published by BMJ.

King's Authors


Introduction: At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, individuals with pre-existing mental health difficulties were thought to be vulnerable to mental health deterioration due to the emerging threat and the actions taken to control infection rates. Yet, there remained a paucity of research investigating changes in veteran well-being, a population facing higher rates of mental health difficulties compared with the general public. This longitudinal study aimed to investigate the mental health and well-being of UK veterans with pre-existing mental health difficulties at two time points during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Methods: UK treatment-seeking veterans (N=121) completed an online survey administered towards the end of the first UK lockdown in June 2020 and 1 year later. Data were gathered on sociodemographic characteristics as well as psychometric measures of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), common mental disorders (CMDs), anger difficulties and alcohol misuse.

Results: The proportion of veterans meeting criteria of PTSD, anger and alcohol misuse remained similar across the two time points, while significantly fewer veterans met criteria for CMDs 1 year later. A notable proportion of the sample reported challenges in attending mental and physical health appointments, which was positively associated with not working and negatively associated with more COVID-19-related stressors.

Conclusions: These findings suggest that, to date, veterans with pre-existing mental health difficulties appear to demonstrate resilience as the COVID-19 pandemic progressed. However, as the pandemic continued, veterans faced significantly more COVID-19-related stressors, less social support, as well as difficulties attending health appointments.

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