Leadership, cohesion, morale, and the mental health of UK Armed Forces in Afghanistan

Psychiatry. 2012 Spring;75(1):49-59. doi: 10.1521/psyc.2012.75.1.49.


UK Armed Forces (AF) personnel deployed to Afghanistan are frequently exposed to intense combat and yet little is known about the short-term mental health consequences of this exposure and the potential mitigating effects of military factors such as cohesion, morale, and leadership. To assess the possible modulating influence of cohesion, morale, and leadership on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms and common mental disorders resulting from combat exposure among UK AF personnel deployed to Afghanistan, UK AF personnel, during their deployment to Afghanistan in 2010, completed a self-report survey about aspects of their current deployment, including perceived levels of cohesion, morale, leadership, combat exposure, and their mental health status. Outcomes were symptoms of common mental disorder and symptoms of PTSD. Combat exposure was associated with both PTSD symptoms and symptoms of common mental disorder. Of the 1,431 participants, 17.1% reported caseness levels of common mental disorder, and 2.7% were classified as probable PTSD cases. Greater self-reported levels of unit cohesion, morale, and perceived good leadership were all associated with lower levels of common mental disorder and PTSD. Greater levels of unit cohesion, morale, and good leadership may help to modulate the effects of combat exposure and the subsequent development of mental health problems among UK Armed Forces personnel deployed to Afghanistan.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Afghan Campaign 2001-
  • Afghanistan
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Leadership*
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Mental Disorders / prevention & control
  • Mental Disorders / psychology
  • Mental Health
  • Military Personnel / psychology*
  • Military Personnel / statistics & numerical data
  • Morale*
  • Risk Factors
  • Self Report
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / epidemiology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / prevention & control
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology
  • United Kingdom