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Risk factors for positive depression screening across a shipboard deployment cycle

  • Alice E. Arcury-Quandt (a1), Judith Harbertson (a2), Lauretta Ziajko (a3) and Braden R. Hale (a4)



Depression is a leading cause of healthcare use and risk for suicide among US military personnel. Depression is not well characterised over the shipboard deployment cycle, and personnel undergo less screening than with land-based deployments, making early identification less likely.


To determine the demographic and behavioural risk factors associated with screening positive for risk of depression (ROD) across the shipboard deployment cycle.


Active-duty ship assigned personnel completed an anonymous assessment using the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D) in the year prior to deployment, during deployment and in the months following deployment. Longitudinal models were used to determine risk factors.


In total, 598 people were included in the analysis. Over 50% of the study population screened positive for ROD (CES-D score ≥16) and over 25% screened positive for risk of major depressive disorder (CES-D score ≥22) at all time points. Lower age, female gender, alcohol use, stress and prior mental health diagnoses were all associated with greater odds of screening positive for ROD in multivariable models.


Although the risk factors associated with screening positive for ROD are similar to those in other military and civilian populations, the proportion screening positive exceeds previously reported prevalence. This suggests that shipboard deployment or factors associated with shipboard deployment may present particular stressors or increase the likelihood of depressive symptoms.

Declaration of interest

The authors are military service members (or employees of the US Government). This work was prepared as part of the authors' official duties. Title 17, U.S.C. §105 provides the ‘Copyright protection under this title is not available for any work of the United States Government.’ Title 17, USC, §101 defines a US Government work as work prepared by a military service member or employee of the US Government as part of that person's official duties. The views expressed in this research are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Navy, Department of the Army, Department of the Air Force, Department of Veterans Affairs, Department of Defense, or the US Government. Approved for public release; distribution unlimited. Material has been reviewed by the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research. There is no objection to its presentation and/or publication. The opinions or assertions contained herein are the private views of the authors, and are not to be construed as official, or as reflecting true views of the Department of the Army or the Department of Defense.

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This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. Parts of this work was prepared by military service members or employees of the US Government as part of their official duties. As such, copyright protection is not available for this work (Title 17, USC, §105)

Corresponding author

Correspondence: Alice Arcury-Quandt, Department of Epidemiology, 130 DeSoto Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15261, USA. Email:


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Risk factors for positive depression screening across a shipboard deployment cycle

  • Alice E. Arcury-Quandt (a1), Judith Harbertson (a2), Lauretta Ziajko (a3) and Braden R. Hale (a4)
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