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Active combat linked to criminal violence in military personnel

BMJ 2013; 346 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.f1717 (Published 20 March 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f1717

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When researchers linked a large cohort of UK military personnel to a national criminal records database they found that 11.0% (1369/12 359) of them had a conviction for violent crime before, during, or after their service. Lifetime prevalence of violent offending was particularly high in men under 30 years (521/2728; 20.6%). Active combat (hazard ratio 1.53, 95% CI 1.15 to 2.03) and exposure to traumatic events were both associated with subsequent violent offending, even after accounting for the high prevalence of pre-service offences, poor educational attainment, younger age, and lower rank that characterised troops selected for combat roles. Self reported alcohol misuse, aggressive behaviour, and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder were also associated with violent offending after return from active combat.

The authors analysed two phases of questionnaire data from 13 856 military personnel, mostly male regulars (not reserves) serving in the army in non-officer ranks. Just over 9000 responders were deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan during the study.

Interventions to prevent interpersonal violence in combat troops is the ultimate goal, says a linked editorial (p 883). Further exploration of the complex interactions reported here should take us one step closer.

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Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f1717