The prevalence of mental health disorders in (ex-) military personnel with a physical impairment: a systematic review

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Background: Having a visual, hearing or physical impairment (defined as problems in body function or structure) may adversely influence the mental well-being of military personnel. This paper reviews the existing literature regarding the prevalence of mental health problems among (ex-)military personnel who have a permanent, predominantly, physical impairment.

Method: Multiple electronic literature databases were searched for relevant studies (EMBASE (1980–January 2014), MEDLINE (1946–January 2014), PsycINFO (2002–January 2014), Web of Science (1975–January 2014)).

Results: 25 papers were included in the review, representing 17 studies. Studies conducted among US military personnel (n=8) were most represented. A range of mental health disorders were investigated; predominately post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but also depression, anxiety disorder (excluding PTSD), psychological distress and alcohol misuse. The findings indicate that mental health disorders including PTSD (range 2–59%), anxiety (range 16.1–35.5%), depression (range 9.7–46.4%) and psychological distress (range 13.4–36%) are frequently found whereby alcohol misuse was least common (range 2.2–26.2%).

Conclusions: Common mental health disorders were frequently identified among (ex-)military personnel with a physical impairment. Adequate care and support is necessary during the impairment adaptation process to facilitate the psychosocial challenges (ex-)military personnel with an impairment face. Future research should be directed into factors impacting on the mental well-being of (ex-)military personnel with an impairment, how prevalence rates vary across impairment types and to identify and act on specific needs for care and support.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)243-251
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine
Issue number4
Early online date16 Sept 2014
Publication statusPublished - 16 Mar 2015


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