Psychological Medicine

Original Articles

Violent behaviour in UK military personnel returning home after deployment

D. MacManusa1a2 c1, K. Deana1, M. Al Bakira2, A. C. Iversena2, L. Hulla2, T. Fahya1, S. Wesselya1a2 and N. T. Feara2

a1 Department of Forensic and Neurodevelopmental Sciences, Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, London, UK

a2 King's Centre for Military Health Research, King's College London, London, UK

Abstract

Background There is growing concern about an alleged rise in violent behaviour amongst military personnel returning from deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan. The aims of this study were to determine the prevalence of violence in a sample of UK military personnel following homecoming from deployment in Iraq and to examine the impact of deployment-related experiences, such as combat trauma, on violence, and the role of sociodemographics and pre-enlistment antisocial behaviour.

Method This study used baseline data from a cohort study of a large randomly selected sample of UK Armed Forces personnel in service at the time of the Iraq war (2003). Regular personnel (n=4928) who had been deployed to Iraq were included. Data, collected by questionnaire, included information on deployment experiences, sociodemographic and military characteristics, pre-enlistment antisocial behaviour, post-deployment health outcomes and a self-report measure of physical violence in the weeks following return from deployment.

Results Prevalence of violence was 12.6%. This was strongly associated with pre-enlistment antisocial behaviour [adjusted odds ratio (aOR) 3.6, 95% confidence interval (CI) 2.9–4.4]. After controlling for pre-enlistment antisocial behaviour, sociodemographics and military factors, violence was still strongly associated with holding a combat role (aOR 2.0, 95% CI 1.6–2.5) and having experienced multiple traumatic events on deployment (aOR for four or more traumatic events 3.7, 95% CI 2.5–5.5). Violence on homecoming was also associated with mental health problems such as post-traumatic stress disorder (aOR 4.8, 95% CI 3.2–7.2) and alcohol misuse (aOR 3.1, 95% CI 2.5–3.9).

Conclusions Experiences of combat and trauma during deployment were significantly associated with violent behaviour following homecoming in UK military personnel. Post-deployment mental health problems and alcohol misuse are also associated with increased violence.

(Received February 15 2011)

(Revised September 13 2011)

(Accepted September 21 2011)

(Online publication November 25 2011)

Correspondence

c1 Address for correspondence: D. MacManus, BSc, MBChB, MSc, MRCPsych, Honorary Specialist Registrar in Forensic Psychiatry, MRC Research Training Fellow, Institute of Psychiatry PO23, De Crespigny Park, Denmark Hill, London SE5 8AF, UK. (Email: deirdre.macmanus@kcl.ac.uk)

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