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Potentially modifiable risk factors for mental health problems in deployed UK maritime forces
  1. David Boulos1,
  2. Mark A Zamorski2
  1. 1Canadian Forces Health Services Group Headquarters, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
  2. 2Canadian Forces Health Services Group Headquarters; and Adjunct Professor, Department of Family Medicine, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
  1. Correspondence to David Boulos, Canadian Forces Health Services Group Headquarters, 1745 Alta Vista Dr., Ottawa, ON K1A 0K6, Canada; david.boulos{at}

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Military deployments and mental health problems (MHPs) have often been studied, but only infrequently in the deployed environment, where MHP-related impairments would be particularly consequential. Fewer still have looked at deployed sailors, so Whybrow et al's1 cross-sectional survey of MHPs among Royal Navy personnel deployed at sea is a welcome addition to the literature. They found that 41.2% had common mental disorder symptoms (ie, mood, anxiety or neurotic spectrum disorders), 7.8% probable post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and 17.4% potentially harmful alcohol use. These prevalence rates are strikingly higher than those in deployed UK land-based forces using comparable methods; common mental disorder rates varied from 16.0% to 20.8% and probable PTSD from 1.9% to 3.4%.2 3 An earlier study of deployed Royal Navy personnel documented similarly elevated rates, suggesting that the present findings are not a chance occurrence.4

Past research has focused on operational trauma as the primary driver of poor mental health in military personnel, both on deployment and afterwards. The low trauma exposure in the present study suggests other attributions for the high levels of MHPs, such as premilitary characteristics and experiences, …

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  • Notice ©Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, as represented by the Minister of National Defence, 2015. In addition to an interest in the ownership of the copyright in the paper, as well as all proprietary rights, vests in Her Majesty, no assignment or transfer of copyright has occurred, and no further rights, other than those set out above, have been granted to OEM. Her Majesty retains the right to authorise reproduction and publishing by any party other than OEM.

  • Contributors DB and MAZ have contributed to the writing of this manuscript. DB wrote the initial draft of the manuscript but both the authors contributed to the writing of subsequent versions that resulted in the final submission.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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