The impact of military service on health and well-being

V. Williamson*, J. Diehle, R. Dunn, N. Jones, N. Greenberg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


Background While it is known that some UK Armed Forces (UK AF) personnel and veterans experience physical and mental health problems, the possible future healthcare needs of military veterans are unknown. Aims To estimate the number of military personnel who may experience physical and/or psychological health problems associated with their military service. Methods Data were obtained via Freedom of Information requests to several sources, including Defence Statistics. Raw data from research studies were also used where available. Data were analysed using meta-Analytic methods to determine the rate of physical, mental or comorbid health problems in AF personnel. Results Musculoskeletal problems were the predominant reason for medical discharge from service. In terms of mental health, meta-Analyses estimated that veteran reservists (part-Time military members) previously deployed to operational areas had the highest proportion of general health problems (35%), previously deployed veteran regulars (those in full time military employment) and veteran reservists had the highest proportion of post-Traumatic stress disorder (9%), and regular personnel with a deployment history had the highest proportion of alcohol problems (14%). Overall, our findings suggest that at least 67515 veterans are likely to suffer from mental and/or physical health problems at some point as a result of their service between 2001 and 2014. Conclusions The results of this study highlight that the difficulties personnel may face are largely musculoskeletal or mental health-related. These findings may help with planning the provision of future physical and mental health care and support for those who serve in the UK AF.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)64-70
Number of pages7
JournalOccupational Medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 7 Feb 2019


  • Injury
  • mental ill-health
  • meta-Analysis
  • military
  • musculoskeletal
  • occupation


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