The psychological health of veterans of the 2003 Iraq war

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis describes a nested cross-sectional study of Iraq War veterans who deployed in the main war-fighting period of the war (TELIC 1) and those in the UK military during the Iraq War, but who did not deploy at that time. Participants were drawn from a large UK military cohort, stratified by deployment status and engagement type. Participants undertook a structured telephone interview including diagnostic instruments, measures of service utilisation, and barriers to care. The response rate was 76% (821 participants). The weighted prevalence of common mental health problems/PTSD symptoms was 27.2% and 4.8%. The most common diagnoses were alcohol abuse (18%) and neurotic disorders (13.5%). There was no health effect of deploying for regular personnel, but an increased risk of PTSD for reservists deployed to Iraq, and other recent deployments, compared to reservists who did not deploy. Less than a quarter of those with common mental health problems still serving in the military were receiving any form of medical professional help. Non-medical sources of help were widely used. The rates of help-seeking in this population were comparable with general population rates. The majority of those diagnosed were not receiving the best evidence based treatment. 44% of interviewees diagnosed on structured interview failed to recognise they were suffering from a mental health problem. The most common barriers to care reported related to the anticipated public stigma associated with consulting. In addition, participants reported barriers in the practicalities of consulting, e.g. scheduling an appointment. Stigma did not influence help-seeking, although negative attitudes | toward mental health care did. Those with mental health problems, such as PTSD, reported significantly more barriers to care than those without a diagnosis. Barriers to care appeared undiminished on leaving the services.
Date of Award2013
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorNicola Fear (Supervisor) & Simon Wessely (Supervisor)

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