Occupational moral injury and mental health: systematic review and meta-analysis

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Background Many people confront potentially morally injurious experiences (PMIEs) in the course of their work which can violate deeply held moral values or beliefs, putting them at risk for psychological difficulties (e.g. post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, etc.). Aims We aimed to assess the effect of moral injury on mental health outcomes. Method We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis to assess the association between work-related PMIEs and mental health disorders. Studies were independently assessed for methodological quality and potential moderator variables, including participant age, gender and PMIE factors, were also examined. Results Thirteen studies were included, representing 6373 participants. PMIEs accounted for 9.4% of the variance in PTSD, 5.2% of the variance in depression and 2.0% of the variance in suicidality. PMIEs were associated with more symptoms of anxiety and behavioural problems (e.g. hostility), although this relationship was not consistently significant. Moderator analyses indicated that methodological factors (e.g. PMIE measurement tool), demographic characteristics and PMIE variables (e.g. military v. non-military context) did not affect the association between a PMIE and mental health outcomes. Conclusions Most studies examined occupational PMIEs in military samples and additional studies investigating the effect of PMIEs on civilians are needed. Given the limited number of high-quality studies available, only tentative conclusions about the association between exposure to PMIEs and mental health disorders can be made.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)339-346
JournalBritish Journal of Psychiatry
Issue number06
Early online date22 May 2018
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2018


  • moral injur
  • meta-analysis
  • systematic review
  • PTSD
  • depression
  • suicidality


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