Glasgow & West Scotland

Veterans' self-harm risk linked to length of service

British troops on patrol Image copyright PA
Image caption The study found that there was an increased risk in both the youngest veterans and in middle-aged people

Veterans who have served in the armed forces for a short time are at increased risk of self-harm, researchers have found.

Academics analysed the long-term risks of non-fatal self-harm, serious enough to warrant hospital admission, in all veterans living in Scotland.

The team at the University of Glasgow focused on those who served between 1960 and 2012.

Overall the risk to veterans with brief service increased by 30%.

But for those who left service before completing their initial training the risk soared by 70%.

In comparison people who had served for longest were at 60% reduced risk.

The study found that there was an increased risk in both the youngest veterans and in middle-aged people.

Although young women usually have a higher risk of self-harm than men, the research did not show any significant increase in risk in women veterans.

Lead researcher Dr Beverly Bergman said: "This is an important study which provides the first insight into an important area of veterans' mental health.

"Although overall the veterans were at increased risk of self-harm, the risk reduced steadily with longer service, which suggests that the biggest risk factors come from people's pre-service life and that longer military service is protective."

The study, which used data from the Scottish Veterans Health Study to examine hospital admissions due to non-fatal self-harm, is published in Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology.

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