Close to 15 percent of Canadian Forces personnel deployed to Afghanistan developed a mental disorder as a result of the mission, a new study reports.
The study was conducted by researchers from the Canadian Forces Health Services Group and published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.
“An important minority of Canadian Forces personnel deployed in support of the Afghanistan mission had a diagnosis of a mental disorder perceived to be related to the deployment,” the study says.
The mental health issues were found among 13.5 percent of personnel included in the study. The most common diagnosis was found to be post-traumatic stress, followed by depression.
The study also found a strong association between mental disorders and deployment location, age, rank, area of service, and number of deployments.
The highest incidence of mental health diagnosis occurred among those deployed to the high-risk Kandahar region, with the rate being almost six times the risk of those deployed to the UAE and two times the risk of those deployed to Kabul or multiple locations.
Those serving in land forces as opposed to those in the air force, as well as those serving in more junior positions also had a higher rate of mental health diagnosis.
Researchers found that the results of the study are for the most part consistent with results from studies done in other countries in similar circumstances. For example, other countries also found that personnel exposed to heavy combat have a higher rate of post-traumatic stress disorder than those in lower-threat locations.
Unlike many other studies done in other countries, however, the researchers didn’t find a strong association between mental disorders and gender, whether personnel are part of the reserve forces or not, and multiple deployments and deployment length.
According to the study, determining long-term outcomes is an important next step.
The researchers note that their study was limited by the fact that it only includes those diagnosed by the Canadian Forces mental health services over a period of time, and excluded those who had mental disorders that were resolved without care, those who were seen only in primary care or outside of the Canadian Forces, those who have not yet developed mental disorder issues, or those who have not yet sought help.