Alcohol major problem for returning UK troops

Alcohol abuse has emerged as a bigger problem than the post-traumatic stress disorder for UK troops.

Updated: May 13, 2010, 19:17 PM IST

London: Alcohol abuse has emerged as a
bigger problem than the post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
for thousands of British troops who have returned from the war zones in Afghanistan and Iraq, according to a new study.

The study carried out by researchers at King`s College
London found that British military personnel sent to those two
countries are 22 per cent more likely to drink "hazardous"
levels of alcohol than troops who were not deployed there.
The study, published in The Lancet medical journal, also
found that rates of PTSD and other mental health problems have remained broadly stable since 2003.

"This contrasts with America, where an "epidemic" of
mental health problems has been reported in troops returning
home from war zones in recent years," The Times reported.

Overall, more than one in ten, or 13 per cent, of
respondents said that they were drinking alcohol in quantities
defined as hazardous by the World Health Organization’s
Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (Audit).

According to Nicola Fear, a lead author of the study,
frontline troops were more likely to misuse alcohol, while
reservists deployed to war zones, such as those from the
Territorial Army, were more vulnerable to mental health
problems.

She added that rates of PTSD remained low among both
groups, however, and that overall the mental and physical
health of the Armed Forces was generally better than that of
the general population.

"We are not seeing this tidal wave of mental health
problems as was predicted and has been seen in the US," she
said.

The study of almost 10,000 Armed Forces personnel found
that almost one in five (19.7 per cent) reported signs of a
common mental health disorder, such as depression, anxiety or insomnia.

And multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan did not
seem to have an effect on rates of PTSD, which was estimated
to affect between 3 and 4 per cent of British troops over the
course of the study.

The researchers noted that Britain`s Army, Navy and RAF
personnel served shorter tours of duty than their American
counterparts -- six months compared with 15 -- which "by luck
or design" may have a protective effect on their mental
health.

In total, 8,278 regulars and 1,712 reservists
participated in the latest study, answering a 26-page
questionnaire, covering combat and service history, alongside
standardized tests for PTSD, alcohol misuse and common mental health conditions.

In the three months to the end of December, 821 new cases of mental disorder were documented across the Armed Forces, up from 476 the previous quarter but relatively unchanged from the same period a year ago.

The Ministry of Defence, which funded the study, welcomed
the findings and said: "We place high importance on the
prevention, assessment and treatment of mental health problems and continue to make progress in reducing the stigma associated with seeking help."

PTI