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Prevalence of Mental Health Symptoms in Dutch Military Personnel Returning from Deployment to Afghanistan: A 2-year Longitudinal Analysis

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  15 April 2020

A. Reijnen*
Research Centre – Military Mental Health, Ministry of Defence, Utrecht, The Netherlands Brain Center Rudolf Magnus, Department of Psychiatry, University Medical Center Utrecht, Utrecht, The Netherlands Department of Psychiatry, Leiden University Medical Center, Leiden, The Netherlands
A.R. Rademaker
Research Centre – Military Mental Health, Ministry of Defence, Utrecht, The Netherlands
E. Vermetten
Research Centre – Military Mental Health, Ministry of Defence, Utrecht, The Netherlands Brain Center Rudolf Magnus, Department of Psychiatry, University Medical Center Utrecht, Utrecht, The Netherlands Department of Psychiatry, Leiden University Medical Center, Leiden, The Netherlands Arq, Psychotrauma Expert Group, Diemen, the Netherlands
E. Geuze
Research Centre – Military Mental Health, Ministry of Defence, Utrecht, The Netherlands Brain Center Rudolf Magnus, Department of Psychiatry, University Medical Center Utrecht, Utrecht, The Netherlands
Corresponding author at: Military Mental Health Research Center, P.O. Box 90.000, 3509 AA Utrecht, The Netherlands. Tel.: +31 30 2502587. E-mail (A. Reijnen).
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Recent studies in troops deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan have shown that combat exposure and exposure to deployment-related stressors increase the risk for the development of mental health symptoms. The aim of this study is to assess the prevalence of mental health symptoms in a cohort of Dutch military personnel prior to and at multiple time-points after deployment.


Military personnel (n = 994) completed various questionnaires at 5 time-points; starting prior to deployment and following the same cohort at 1 and 6 months and 1 and 2 years after their return from Afghanistan.


The prevalence of symptoms of fatigue, PTSD, hostility, depression and anxiety was found to significantly increase after deployment compared with pre-deployment rates. As opposed to depressive symptoms and fatigue, the prevalence of PTSD was found to decrease after the 6-month assessment. The prevalence of sleeping problems and hostility remained relatively stable.


The prevalence of mental health symptoms in military personnel increases after deployment, however, symptoms progression over time appears to be specific for various mental health symptoms. Comprehensive screening and monitoring for a wide range of mental health symptoms at multiple time-points after deployment is essential for early detection and to provide opportunities for intervention.

Declaration of interest:

This project was funded by the Dutch Ministry of Defence.

Original article
Copyright © Elsevier Masson SAS 2014

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