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Exposure to combat and traumatic events increases risk of violent offending among military personnel

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Question: Do deployment, combat history or postdeployment mental health problems impact on violent offending among military personnel?

People: Participants were randomly sampled in two phases. Phase 1:17 689 personnel either trained and deployed in Iraq or trained but not deployed. Phase 2:6628 new recruits who may be deployed in Iraq were added to the sample, as well as 1789 personnel deployed in Afghanistan. Special Forces personnel were excluded.

Setting: UK Armed Forces; phase 1: recruitment, June 2004–March 2005 and phase 2: November 2007–September 2009.

Risk factors: Sociodemographics, behaviour and experiences before joining the military (obtained from self-report questionnaires); deployment status (served in Iraq or Afghanistan since 2003); combat experience; exposure to traumatic events (adapted Combat Experience Scale); and mental health conditions. Mental health in the past month was assessed using set cut-off scores on the General Health Questionnaire-12 (GHQ-12), Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Checklist (PLC-C) and the WHO Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test. Aggressive score was assessed using a validated measure at phase 2.

Outcomes: Offences, including cautions, reprimands, warnings and …

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  • Sources of funding: UK Medical Research Council; UK Ministry of Defence.


  • Competing interests None.