Complaints of stress in young soldiers strongly predispose to psychiatric morbidity and mortality: Danish national cohort study with 10-year follow-up

Acta Psychiatr Scand. 2008 Feb;117(2):148-55. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0447.2007.01129.x. Epub 2007 Dec 11.


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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cohort Studies
  • Denmark / epidemiology
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / diagnosis
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Mental Disorders / mortality
  • Military Personnel / psychology*
  • Military Personnel / statistics & numerical data*
  • Prevalence
  • Stress, Psychological / epidemiology*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology