The mental health of UK ex-servicemen with a combat-related or non-combat-related visual impairment: does the cause of visual impairment matter?

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Abstract

Aims: Since the start of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, the numbers of young service personnel who have sustained a combat-related visual impairment have increased. This cross-sectional study examined the mental well-being of ex-servicemen (aged 22–55 years) with a visual impairment and determined if the mental health of those with a combat-related visual impairment differed from those whose visual impairment is not combat-related.

Methods: Male ex-service personnel with a visual impairment completed a telephone interview assessing the presence of depressive symptomatology, probable anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptomatology and alcohol misuse. Data were analysed using descriptive statistics.

Results: 77 participants were included in the study, reflecting a response rate of 76.2%. Of those with complete data (n=74), 20 ex-servicemen had a combat-related visual impairment. Among ex-service personnel with a combat-related visual impairment, 10.0% (95% CI 0 to 23.2) screened positive for a probable depression, 25.0% (95% CI 6.0 to 44.0) for probable anxiety and 10.0% (95% CI 0 to 23.2) for probable PTSD. The prevalence of probable depression and probable PTSD differed among those with a non-combat-related visual impairment, namely 18.5% (95% CI 8.1 to 28.9) and 16.7% (95% CI 6.8 to 26.7), respectively. Probable anxiety was 18.5% (95% CI 8.1 to 28.9) among non-combat-related visually impaired ex-service personnel. 45.0% (95% CI 23.2 to 66.8) of combat-related visually impaired personnel reported hazardous drinking, compared with 20.4% (95% CI 9.7 to 31.2) of those with a non-combat-related visual impairment.

Conclusions: Mental health problems were prevalent among visually impaired younger ex-servicemen. No statistically significant differences were found in the prevalence of mental health problems among ex-servicemen with a combat-related visual impairment compared with those with a non-combat-related visual impairment.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages6
JournalBritish Journal of Ophthalmology
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2015

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