This study assessed the prevalence of general medical problems, stress or emotional problems, and alcohol problems reported by members of the armed forces of the United Kingdom after deployment in Iraq or Afghanistan. The study also identified types of help seeking and factors associated with help seeking.
A total of 4,725 military personnel who were deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan, or both were asked about health problems attributable to the deployment and whether they had sought help for them. Data were collected through postal surveys between 2007 and 2009. Service and sociodemographic covariates and measures of current mental health, alcohol misuse, and functional impairment were included in the analyses.
Of the 19% who reported stress or emotional problems, 42% sought help, most commonly medical help (29%). Of the 6% who reported alcohol problems, 31% sought help, most commonly medical help (17%). Medical help seeking for stress or emotional problems was associated with being female, holding a lower rank, having functional impairment, and meeting criteria for two or more mental health problems. Being divorced or separated was positively associated with nonmedical help seeking for stress or emotional problems. Help seeking for alcohol problems was associated with current mental disorders.
Medical help seeking for stress or emotional problems was uncommon and was related to meeting criteria for two or more mental health problems. Commissioned officers were reluctant to seek medical help for stress or emotional problems. Help seeking for alcohol problems increased if personnel were experiencing additional mental health problems.