Military and demographic predictors of mental ill-health and socioeconomic hardship among UK veterans

H. Burdett*, N. T. Fear, S. Wessely, R. J. Rona

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Around 8% of the UK Armed Forces leave in any given year, and must navigate unfamiliar civilian systems to acquire employment, healthcare, and other necessities. This paper determines longer-term prevalences of mental ill health and socioeconomic outcomes in UK Service leavers, and how they are related to demographic factors, military history, and pre-enlistment adversity. Methods: This study utilised data from a longitudinal sample of a cohort study UK Armed Forces personnel since 2003. A range of self-reported military and sociodemographic factors were analysed as predictors of probable Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, common mental disorders, alcohol misuse, unemployment and financial hardship. Prevalences and odds ratios of associations between predictors and outcomes were estimated for regular veterans in this cohort. Results: Veteran hardship was mostly associated with factors linked to socio-economic status: age, education, and childhood adversity. Few military-specific factors predicted mental health or socio-economic hardship, except method of leaving (where those leaving due to medical or unplanned discharge were more likely to encounter most forms of hardship as veterans), and rank which is itself related to socioeconomic status. Conclusion: Transition and resettlement provisions become increasingly generous with longer service, yet this paper shows the need for those services becomes progressively less necessary as personnel acquire seniority and skills, and instead could be best targeted at unplanned leavers, taking socioeconomic status into consideration. Many will agree that longer service should be more rewarded, but the opposite is true if provision instead reflects need rather than length of service. This is a social, political and ethical dilemma.

Original languageEnglish
Article number304
JournalBMC Psychiatry
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021


  • Alcohol abuse
  • PTSD
  • Unemployment
  • Veterans
  • Veterans health


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