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Influence of childhood adversity on health among male UK military personnel

  • Amy C. Iversen (a1), Nicola T. Fear (a2), Emily Simonoff (a3), Lisa Hull (a4), Oded Horn (a4), Neil Greenberg (a4), Matthew Hotopf (a4), Roberto Rona (a4) and Simon Wessely (a4)...

Exposure to childhood adversity may explain why only a minority of combatants exposed to trauma develop psychological problems.


To examine the association between self-reported childhood vulnerability and later health outcomes in a large randomly selected male military cohort.


Data are derived from the first stage of a cohort study comparing Iraq veterans and non-deployed UK military personnel. We describe data collected by questionnaire from males in the regular UK armed forces (n=7937).


Pre-enlistment vulnerability is associated with being single, of lower rank, having low educational attainment and serving in the Army. Pre-enlistment vulnerability is associated with a variety of negative health outcomes. Two main factors emerge as important predictors of ill health: a ‘family relationships' factor reflecting the home environment and an ‘externalising behaviour’ factor reflecting behavioural disturbance.


Pre-enlistment vulnerability is an important individual risk factor for ill health in military men. Awareness of such factors is important in understanding post-combat psychiatric disorder.

Corresponding author
Dr Amy C. Iversen, Department of Psychological Medicine, Weston Education Centre, Cutcombe Road, London SE5 9RJ, UK. Email:
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Declaration of interest

N.G. is a full-time active service medical officer seconded to King's Centre for Military Health Research as a liaison officer. S.W. is Honorary Consultant Advisor in Psychiatry to the British Army.

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Influence of childhood adversity on health among male UK military personnel

  • Amy C. Iversen (a1), Nicola T. Fear (a2), Emily Simonoff (a3), Lisa Hull (a4), Oded Horn (a4), Neil Greenberg (a4), Matthew Hotopf (a4), Roberto Rona (a4) and Simon Wessely (a4)...
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