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Original research
Contribution of mental ill health during military service to postservice benefit claims in the UK


Objectives While most UK military personnel transition successfully into civilian life, some experience unemployment and disability, which may be partly attributable to in-service factors. This study aims to determine the degree to which in-service mental health problems impact on postservice benefit claims.

Methods Using data from a cohort of 5598 recent leavers from regular service in the UK Armed Forces linked with data from the Department for Work and Pensions, we assessed associations between in-service mental health and postservice benefit claims, and the population attributable fraction (PAF) of benefit claims related to in-service mental health. An analysis with postservice mental ill health as mediator was performed to determine the degree to which the observed effects were a consequence of persistent illness, as opposed to remitted.

Results Mental illness occurring in-service predicted both unemployment and disability claims, partly mediated by postservice health (23%–52% total effects mediated), but alcohol misuse did not. Common mental disorder (CMD) (PAF 0.07, 95% CI: 0.02 to 0.11) and probable post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) (PAF 0.05, 95% CI 0.01 to 0.09) contributed to unemployment claims. Probable PTSD was the largest contributor to disability claims (PAF 0.25, 95% CI 0.13 to 0.36), with a smaller contribution from CMD (PAF 0.16, 95% CI 0.03 to 0.27).

Conclusions In-service mental ill health gives rise to benefit claims. These effects are only partly mediated by postservice mental health, implying that in-service (or pre-service) mental issues have carry-over effects into civilian life even if remitted. Better prevention and treatment of in-service PTSD symptoms may well reduce postservice disability claims.

  • mental health
  • military personnel

Data availability statement

No data are available. The datasets generated and analysed during the study are not publicly available due to the sensitive nature of data referring to members of the Armed Forces.

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