Factors that increase the risk of violent offending by military personnel: Lancet.March.2013


Time and again it is shown that mental health of military personnel is adversely affected by combat experience. Anxiety, alcohol use, PTSD, depression as well as  involvement in violent behaviours are shown to be increased among them. Pre existing vulnerability ( social adversity,early antisocial behaviour ) might explain some of this.PTSD, alcohol misuse, and anger management problems are often cited as potential mediators of the link between combat and subsequent violence.

Deirdre MacManus, Kimberlie Dean, Margaret Jones, Roberto J Rona, Neil Greenberg, Lisa Hull, Tom Fahy, Simon Wessely and Nicola T Fear used  data from an established cohort of UK military personnel  and linked that with lifetime official criminal records to describe life-course offending in a sample of the UK Armed Forces. They used a randomly selected sample of 13 856 UK military personnel who were actively serving in the UK Armed Forces at the time of recruitment into the study. A self-report questionnaire collected information about socio demographics, experiences and behaviour before joining the military, experiences since joining the military , and health and behaviour after deployment .GHQ-12 ,PCL-C and AUDIT were used to collect information on mental health.


1.17·0% of  men and 4% of women committed one or more offences during their lifetime.  (28·3% of men in England and Wales aged between 18 years and 52 years in 2006 had a criminal conviction.The lower prevalence of lifetime criminal records in the military population might be partly attributed to years served in military).

2. Violent offenders  were much higher in men younger than 30 years.The strongest predictors of violent offending, after sex and age, were lower rank and pre-service violent offending . Serving in a combat role conferred an additional risk of violent offending

3.Rate of offending in the post-deployment period was greater than in the in-service pre-deployment and pre-military periods for all types of offending including violent offending.   Post-traumatic stress disorder was shown to be a mediator of the link between traumatic events and violent offending.

More research into the potential value of violence reduction interventions in individuals returning from combat to their home communities is needed . The role of ‘moral injury’ in  soldiers mental health problems ( anger, shame and guilt ) also needs close examination.  Authors hope that alcohol misuse treatment and interventions to reduce anger and aggressive behaviour might help to reduce violence risk.

Summary of the article:

Violent offending by UK military personnel deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan: a data linkage cohort study.

Macmanus D, Dean K, Jones M, Rona RJ, Greenberg N, Hull L, Fahy T, Wessely S, Fear NT. Lancet. 2013 Mar 16;381(9870):907-17

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