Younger soldiers returning from Iraq or Afghanistan more likely to commit violent offenses, UK study finds

A new study, sponsored by the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence, has found that younger members of the armed forces–those under the age of 30–are more likely to commit violent acts after returning from duty, reports BBC News.

Researchers analyzed data collected from nearly 14,000 members of the UK armed forces who had served in Iraq or Afghanistan. Of the service personnel followed, more than 20 percent of the younger cohort committed a violent act; this is nearly three times higher than their non-military peers. 

The researchers found that being in the junior ranks, experiencing traumatic events, alcohol abuse and post-traumatic stress disorder, among other factors, were associated with the higher propensity for violent behavior. They noted that the backgrounds of the participants were accounted for while doing their analyses, including the possibility that those predisposed to violence may also be more likely to select combat roles. 

Reflecting on the results, the Ministry of Defence told BBC, “it was committed to improving services and trying to break the stigma around mental health by getting people in the armed forces and veterans to talk about their problems.”

The paper, “Violent offending by UK military personnel deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan: a data linkage cohort study,” has been published in the March 16 issue of The Lancet.

Learn more about how, since 2006, the Canadian Department of National Defence has been using Polaris MH at its medical facility in Halifax, N.S., to support the mental health evaluation and treatment of Canadian soldiers.