Screening for vulnerability to psychological disorders in the military: an historical survey

E Jones, K C Hyams, S Wessely

Research output: Contribution to journalLiterature reviewpeer-review

63 Citations (Scopus)
291 Downloads (Pure)


Objectives: To evaluate attempts in the military to screen for vulnerability to psychological disorders from World War I to the present.
Methods: An extensive literature review was conducted by hand-searching leading medical and psychological journals relating to World Wars I and II. Recent publications were surveyed electronically and UK archives investigated for British applications.
Results: Despite the optimism shown in World War I and the concerted efforts of World War II, follow-up studies showed that screening programmes did not succeed in reducing the incidence of psychological casualties. Furthermore, they had a counter-productive effect on manpower, often rejecting men who would have made good soldiers. Continued experimentation with screening methods for psychiatric vulnerability failed to yield convincing results during the post-war period. Conclusions: Although well-measured variables, such as intelligence, have been shown to predict success in training and aptitude, no instrument has yet been identified which can accurately assess psychological vulnerability. Previous attempts have failed because of false-positives, false-negatives and reluctance in the target population because of stigma. Early findings suggest that psychological surveillance, surveillance, if not screening, may yield valuable results when applied to military populations exposed to stress.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)40 - 46
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Medical Screening
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2003


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