The presentation of depression in the British Army

Nurse Educ Today. 2014 Jan;34(1):83-91. doi: 10.1016/j.nedt.2013.02.020. Epub 2013 Mar 26.


Background: The British Army is predominately composed of young men, often from disadvantaged backgrounds, in which Depression is a common mental health disorder.

Objectives: To construct a predictive model detailing the presentation of depression in the army that could be utilised as an educational and clinical guideline for Army clinical personnel.

Method and participants: Utilising a Constructivist Grounded Theory, phase 1 consisted of 19 interviews with experienced Army mental health clinicians. Phase 2 was a validation exercise conducted with 3 general practitioners.

Results: Depression in the Army correlates poorly with civilian definitions, and has a unique interpretation.

Conclusion: Young soldiers presented with symptoms not in the International Classification of Disorders and older soldiers who feared being medically downgraded, sought help outside the Army Medical Services. Women found it easier to seek support, but many were inappropriately labelled as depressed. Implications include a need to address the poor understanding of military stressors; their relationships to depressive symptoms and raise higher awareness of gender imbalances with regard to access and treatment. The results have international implications for other Armed forces, and those employed in Young Men's Mental Health. The results are presented as a simple predictive model and aide memoire that can be utilised as an educational and clinical guideline. There is scope to adapt this model to international civilian healthcare practice.

Keywords: British Army; Clinical assessment; Defence; Depression; Mental health; Primary healthcare education; Qualitative research methods.

Publication types

  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Depressive Disorder / diagnosis*
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Military Personnel / psychology*
  • United Kingdom