Mental health problems and admissions to hospital for accidents and injuries in the UK military: A data linkage study

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Abstract

Purpose
Accidents are the most common cause of death among UK military personnel. It is a common misconception in the general public that accidental injuries are always the result of random events, however research suggests that mental health problems and the increased levels of risky behaviour in military personnel may play a role. The objective of this study was to further our understanding of injuries and deaths not related to deployment by examining the associations of mental health, alcohol misuse and smoking with inpatient admission to hospital for accidents and injuries, and attendance to accident and emergency (A&E) departments.

Methods
Data on all hospital admissions for accidents and injuries and A&E attendance at NHS hospitals in England, Scotland and Wales were linked to data on self-reported mental health problems, alcohol misuse and smoking from a large, representative UK military cohort of serving and ex-serving personnel (n = 8,602). Logistic regression was used to examine the associations between having a hospital admission for an accident or injury with self-reported mental health problems, alcohol misuse and smoking. Cox proportional-hazards regression was then conducted to assess the associations of mental health problems, alcohol misuse and smoking with time to hospital admission for an accident or injury. Finally, negative binomial regression was used to examine associations between the number of A&E attendances with mental health problems, alcohol misuse and smoking.

Results
Personnel reporting symptoms of common mental disorder (CMD) or probable post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) were more likely to have an admission to hospital for an accident or injury (fully adjusted odds ratio 1.39, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.05–1.84), than those who did not report these symptoms, and also had more attendances to A&E (fully adjusted incidence rate ratio [IRR] 1.32, 95% CI 1.16–1.51). A&E attendances were also more common in personnel who were smokers (fully adjusted IRR 1.21, 95% CI 1.09–1.35) following adjustment for demographic, military and health characteristics.

Conclusions
The findings suggest that accidents and injuries among military personnel are not always random events and that there are health and behavioural factors, including poor mental health and smoking, which are associated (with small effect sizes) with an increased risk of being involved in an accident. Clinicians treating individuals attending hospital after an accident should consider their healthcare needs holistically, including issues related to mental health and health damaging behaviours.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0280938
JournalPloS one
Volume18
Issue number1 January
Early online date24 Jan 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2023

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