The impact of military service on the mental health of older UK veterans: A qualitative study

Victoria Williamson*, Hannah Harwood, Karla Greenberg, Sharon A.M. Stevelink, Neil Greenberg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
275 Downloads (Pure)


Background There may be ongoing psychological problems associated with military service later in life; yet as the elderly in the general population also suffer from mental health problems, whether such issues can be attributed to military service or are a feature of ageing remains unclear. This study aimed to explore veteran and non‐veteran perceptions of the impact of their occupation on their psychological wellbeing later in life. Methods 25 veterans (≥65 years); 25 non‐veterans (≥65 years); 10 veterans with diagnoses of mental health issues (≥65 years); and a close companion of all participants (≥18 years, spouse, child, close friend) were recruited. Using a qualitative approach, participants completed semi structured qualitative interviews with measures of psychological adjustment used to describe the sample. Results Veterans were found to experience higher levels of workplace stress and trauma exposure compared to non‐veterans. When such challenges were positively appraised, veterans described increased confidence and resilience. Social support in response to occupational stress was central to veteran and non‐veteran wellbeing, especially for those with mental health problems. Nonetheless, providing support was challenging for close companions, with many feeling overwhelmed and requiring additional guidance from the veteran's clinical care team. Conclusions The findings delineate the impact of occupation on the wellbeing of older veterans and non‐veterans. The results illustrating the psychological support needs and formal guidance desired by veterans, non‐veterans and their families which could ultimately improve coping of both the individual and family.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere028189
Pages (from-to)1412-1420
JournalInternational Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry
Issue number10
Early online date29 Apr 2019
Publication statusPublished - 15 May 2019


  • geriatric
  • military
  • occupation
  • physical health
  • veteran


Dive into the research topics of 'The impact of military service on the mental health of older UK veterans: A qualitative study'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this