Objective: Serving military can be regarded as exposure to a moderate enforced stressor independent of other vulnerability factors. The aims of this study were i) to explore psychiatric morbidity and mortality during 10 years of follow-up in a cohort of healthy adolescent Danish conscripts and ii) to investigate whether stress-related disorders precede other psychiatric disorders.
Method: Controlled national cohort study on all psychiatric hospital contacts in young men referred to the Military Psychiatric Department (MPD) with 10 years of follow-up.
Results: During the follow-up period, 24% of conscripts seen at the MPD were diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder compared with 4% in the control cohort. Almost all diagnostic categories were over-represented but especially psychotic disorders. Mortality was substantially increased. Of subjects initially diagnosed with stress-related disorders at the MPD, 20% later on developed psychopathology.
Conclusion: Young healthy men complaining of mental distress following a stressor are strongly disposed to psychiatric morbidity and mortality. The study suggests that stress-related disorders often precede more severe psychopathology.