Soldiers Mare Likely To Commit Violent Acts After Service
March 18, 2013

UK Study Suggests Returning Soldiers More Likely To Commit Violent Acts

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Young men who are returning from military service are approximately three times more likely to have committed a violent crime than their civilian counterparts, a team of UK researchers reported on Friday.

The study, which was funded by the UK Ministry of Defence and published in the medical journal The Lancet, found that the overall rate of criminal activity amongst soldiers was actually lower than people of comparative ages in the overall population.

The investigators at the King´s College London Institute of Psychiatry who led the research also discovered that approximately 94 percent of all males who return from combat zones will not commit such offenses, according to BBC News Health and Science Reporter James Gallagher.

However, of the nearly 14,000 UK military personnel under the age of 30 who had served in wars in Iraq or Afghanistan, 2,728 — or slightly more than 20 percent — had committed a violent offense, Gallagher added. In comparison, just 6.7 percent of young men who did not serve in the armed forces committed such offenses.

The majority of the violent acts committed by these individuals were assaults, the study found. In addition, being a lower-ranking officer, being deployed in a combat zone, and experiencing traumatic events were all linked to an increased risk of violence following military service.

“The scientists who carried out the research found a strong association between the likelihood of being a violent offender and exposure to traumatic incidents during combat,” Steve Connor of The Independent said. “They also found a link between violent offending and alcohol misuse and post-traumatic stress disorder.”

“The study found that while the overall rate of lifetime criminality among military personnel was lower than the general population, the incidence of violent offending among ex-servicemen — ranging from threats of violent to serious assaults or worse — was 11 percent compared with 8.7 per cent among men at large,” he added.

The study discovered that the link between military service and lifetime rates of violent offenses was strongest amongst soldiers under the age of 30, the Associated Press (AP) said. A similar analysis of both military and civilian populations showed that the former had an 11 percent lifetime risk rate versus a nine percent rate for the latter group.

“The findings provide information that can enable better violence risk assessment in serving and ex-serving military personnel,” lead author Deidre MacManus of King´s College London told Connor. “They draw attention to the role of mental health problems and the potential effect that appropriate management of alcohol misuse, post-traumatic stress disorder“¦ and aggressive behavior could have in reducing the risk of violence.”

"Those who are in combat roles are themselves slightly different from those who are not,” MacManus´s colleague, Professor Simon Wessely, added in an interview with BBC News. "The military don't select chess-playing choir boys. They select people who often come from difficult and aggressive backgrounds and they're the ones who are most likely to end up in the parts of the military that do the actual fighting.”