Prevalence of DSM-IV major depression among U.S. military personnel: meta-analysis and simulation

Mil Med. 2012 Aug;177(8 Suppl):47-59. doi: 10.7205/milmed-d-12-00103.


A meta-analysis of 25 epidemiological studies estimated the prevalence of recent Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-IV (DSM-IV) major depression (MD) among U.S. military personnel. Best estimates of recent prevalence (standard error) were 12.0% (1.2) among currently deployed, 13.1% (1.8) among previously deployed, and 5.7% (1.2) among never deployed. Consistent correlates of prevalence were being female, enlisted, young (ages 17-25), unmarried, and having less than a college education. Simulation of data from a national general population survey was used to estimate expected lifetime prevalence of MD among respondents with the sociodemographic profile and none of the enlistment exclusions of Army personnel. In this Simulated sample, 16.2% (3.1) of respondents had lifetime MD and 69.7% (8.5) of first onsets occurred before expected age of enlistment. Numerous methodological problems limit the results of the meta-analysis and simulation. The article closes with a discussion of recommendations for correcting these problems in future surveillance and operational stress studies.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Depressive Disorder, Major / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Military Personnel / statistics & numerical data*
  • Prevalence
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • United States / epidemiology