According to a new paper in the British Medical Journal, there is an association between duration of deployment and incidence of alcohol problems and post-traumatic stress disorder in British troops:
Personnel who were deployed for 13 months or more in the past three years were more likely to fulfil the criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder…and have multiple physical symptoms…A significant association was found between duration of deployment and severe alcohol problems. Exposure to combat partly accounted for these associations. The associations between number of deployments in the past three years and mental disorders were less consistent than those related to duration of deployment. Post-traumatic stress disorder was also associated with a mismatch between expectations about the duration of deployment and the reality.
The conclusions of the study are obvious: the U. K. Ministry of Defence needs to adhere to “a clear and explicit policy on duration of each deployment”.
The U. S. DoD – which has been neglecting the mental health of its troops – should also take heed, because American armed forces are stretched to their absolute limit in Iraq.
Rona, R. J., et al. Mental health consequences of overstretch in the UK armed forces: first phase of a cohort study. BMJ. doi:10.1136/bmj.39274.585752.BE