The Herald

Joining the Armed Forces before 18 does not raise risk of post traumatic stress

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JOINING the army before reaching the age of 18 does not appear to increase the risk of post traumatic stress disorder, new research suggests.

Two studies found little evidence that early recruitmen­t to the UK Armed Forces is associated with an adverse impact on long-term mental health. Young people can enter the UK Armed Forces as junior entrants or “juniors” at age 16 or 17.

Deployment is not permitted until people are 18. However, concerns have been raised that juniors are more likely to be channelled into combat roles so are at higher risk of poorer mental health outcomes than those who join at 18 years.

Two studies led by researcher­s from the University of Glasgow and King’s Centre for Military Health Research (KCMHR) at King’s College London found that there is no increased risk of post traumatic stress disorder among people who joined up as juniors.

However, the Glasgow research found that veterans who entered service at age 20-25 years demonstrat­ed an increased risk of mental health issues. Meanwhile, the KCMHR study found that under-18s who joined after 2003 reported higher prevalence of alcohol misuse and self-harm.

Dr Beverly Bergman, Honorary Clinical Associate Professor and leader of the Scottish Veterans Health Research Group at the University of Glasgow and lead researcher, said: “Our findings provide no evidence to support the concerns which have been expressed that junior entry to military service, prior to age 17.5 years, is associated with an increased risk of adverse mental health outcomes. By contrast, it is entry to service at age 20 and above which carries the highest risk, although the overall effect has reduced in more recent generation­s. We also found those who enter service as junior entrants are more likely to follow a longer military career and have a lower risk of longterm mental health disorder.”

Both studies are published in BMJ Military Health.

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