Alcohol and Mental Health in The UK Armed Forces

Alcohol and Mental Health in The UK Armed Forces

By Ed Hanna

Each year, those who serve our country are assessed to study their mental health, taking their highly responsible and dangerous roles into consideration. In 2017/2018, 3.1% of all UK armed forces personnel were diagnosed under MOD Specialist Mental Health Services with a mental health disorder.

The Ministry of Defence review has found a strong link between those experiencing distressing situations and mental health problems. With significant exposure to combat settings, those associated with the armed forces can struggle. Those issues include neurotic conditions such as PTSD, along with depressive episodes and psychoactive disorders; all historically linked to potential alcoholism. Adjustment disorders account for a third of all mental disorders in the UK forces.

Research shows how those most likely to experience mental health problems in the armed forces are women within the 20-44 age bracket. This statistic also follows suit when comparing to the general UK population. When considering ranks within the armed forces, percentages of mental health vary slightly. A fewer number of officers suffer from mental disorders compared to the other ranks. Those associated with the Royal Air Force are found to experience disorders greater at 3.2%, followed by the Army (3.1%) and Royal Navy (2.9%). Those representing the Royal Marines are found to experience less mental health problems at 2.2%.

When considering the review trends, the number of associates who have experienced mental health issues have remained steady since 2007/2008. 3 in every 100 personnel are found to have some form of related disorder. Given these statistics, female non-officers between 20-44 years old, representing the RAF are most likely to experience mental health issues, both actively serving and as veterans.

When looking into PTSD alone, rates assessed in 2017/18 were low, at 2 in every 1,000. Those associated with the Army and Royal Marines are the highest proportion to experience PTSD symptoms, followed by the RAF and Royal Marines who have both experienced reduced rates. Considering previous connections of mental health disorders and alcoholism, misuse has actually decreased for all Royal Navy, Army and RAF personnel. However, the Royal Marines have undergone a rise in alcohol misuse between 2010 and 2016. When studying 2017/2018 statistics, all services have low rates of psychoactive substance misuse for alcohol (0.1%).

To view a graphical breakdown of results, check out the infographic: