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Childhood adversities in UK treatment-seeking military veterans
  1. Jana Ross1,
  2. C Armour1 and
  3. D Murphy2,3
  1. 1 School of Psychology, Queen’s University Belfast Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences, Belfast, UK
  2. 2 Research Department, Combat Stress, Leatherhead, UK
  3. 3 King's Centre for Military Health Research, King's College London, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr D Murphy, Combat Stress, Leatherhead KT22 0BX, UK; dominic.murphy{at}


Introduction The long-term consequences of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) on adult physical and mental health are well documented in the literature. The current study sought to examine this relationship in a sample of UK treatment-seeking military veterans.

Methods The data were collected through a cross-sectional self-report survey from military veterans who have sought help for mental health difficulties from a veteran-specific UK-based charity. The response rate was 67.2% (n=403) and the effective sample for this study consisted of 386 male veterans. Participants’ history of ACEs and current mental/physical health difficulties were assessed. A latent class analysis was conducted to categorise participants into subgroups based on their ACEs and the relationship of these to the mental and physical health outcomes was examined.

Results Five classes of veterans with different combinations of ACEs were identified. A total of 97% reported at least one ACE. There were minimal differences between the classes on mental and physical health outcomes, but the total number of ACEs was related to aggression, common mental health problems and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Conclusions No combination of ACEs was specifically predictive of adverse mental/physical health difficulties in our sample. Instead, those with a higher number of ACEs may be more prone to developing problems with aggression, common mental health problems and PTSD. Assessing the history of childhood adversities in military veterans is therefore important when veterans are seeking help for mental health difficulties, as some of these may be related to childhood adversities and may need to be addressed in treatment.

  • military
  • veterans
  • childhood adversities
  • ACEs
  • latent class analysis

Data availability statement

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  • Contributors JR contributed to research design, conducted the analyses and wrote the paper. CA contributed to the original idea for the study and commented on the paper. DM conceived the original idea, collected the data, contributed to research design and commented on the paper. All authors approved the final manuscript.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.