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Written by Professor Alan Finnegan and Dr Rebecca Randles, this Forces in Mind Trust / NHS England funded evaluation utilises primary healthcare data to identify the number and percentage of military veterans that have a common mental health diagnosis listed on their medical record. The research can be viewed in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) here.

Approximately 180,000 medical records from 16 primary healthcare practices across Cheshire and Lancashire were accessed, resulting in the identification of 2,449 veterans. Of these 38% had a code on their medical record for one or more of; PTSD, depression, anxiety, alcohol abuse, substance misuse or dementia.

Depression had the highest prevalence with 17.8% of veterans being diagnosed, then alcohol abuse at 17.3%, anxiety at 15%, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) at 3.4%, dementia 1.8% and substance misuse listed in under 1%.

Female veterans had a higher prevalence than males for both depression and anxiety, with males having a higher prevalence of PTSD. However, as male veterans’ have been identified as having poor help-seeking behaviour, then the figures for the mental health disorder may be deflated. 

In addition, the low dementia rates were aligned to elderly veterans not having their military service recorded on their medical records.

As far as the authors understand this is the first English veteran research of its type using primary healthcare records. As such and as the results are from a sizeable population they provide information which should be considered in developing veteran-specific clinical provision and policy.

Col (Rtd) Alan Finnegan, Professor of Nursing and Military Mental Health and the Co-Director of the Westminster Centre for Research in Ageing, Mental Health and Veterans, said: “We hope that this research can be used as a way to develop and shape further health policies relating to veteran health care which can provide this population with the support and resources that they need.”

Dr Rebecca Randles, Senior Researcher in the Westminster Centre team in University of Chester’s Faculty of Health and Social Care, added: “We are very pleased that this research has been published but it would not have been possible without the support of the primary healthcare practices that enabled us to gather the data and we are very thankful for their help.”

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