Risk and protective factors for offending among UK Armed Forces personnel after they leave service: a data linkage study

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A proportion of ex-military personnel who develop mental health and social problems end up in the Criminal Justice System. A government review called for better understanding of pathways to offending among ex-military personnel to improve services and reduce reoffending. We utilised data linkage with criminal records to examine the patterns of offending among military personnel after they leave service and the associated risk (including mental health and alcohol problems) and socio-economic protective factors.

Questionnaire data from a cohort study of 13 856 randomly selected UK military personnel were linked with national criminal records to examine changes in the rates of offending after leaving service.

All types of offending increased after leaving service, with violent offending being the most prevalent. Offending was predicted by mental health and alcohol problems: probable PTSD, symptoms of common mental disorder and aggressive behaviour (verbal, property and threatened or actual physical aggression). Reduced risk of offending was associated with post-service socio-economic factors: absence of debt, stable housing and relationship satisfaction. These factors were associated with a reduced risk of offending in the presence of mental health risk factors.

Ex-military personnel are more likely to commit violent offences after leaving service than other offence-types. Mental health and alcohol problems are associated with increased risk of post-service offending, and socio-economic stability is associated with reduced risk of offending among military veterans with these problems. Efforts to reduce post-service offending should encompass management of socio-economic risk factors as well as mental health.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPsychological Medicine
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 29 Nov 2019


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