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Title: Stress in British Army personnel
Author: Harvey, Joanna Sarah
ISNI:       0000 0004 2688 5185
Awarding Body: Liverpool John Moores University
Current Institution: Liverpool John Moores University
Date of Award: 1999
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There is considerable research to date in the field of stress, particularly with respect to questionnaire research. There is, however, a lack of recent research on stress in the British Army which addresses either traumatic or organisational stress. This study considers soldiers' experiences of both occupational and traumatic stress, in addition to identifying the contribution of an individual's expectations and evaluations of a deployment, on mental well-being. Furthermore, this research methodology incorporates standardised psychological questionnaires, free response items and interviews with personnel, which serve to provide a comprehensive approach with high face validity. This study aims to encompass the major aspects which influence the onset and course of stress, including stress experiences, individual differences and coping, in one model. Both studies incorporate traumatic and organisational stress, which is particularly relevant in the military profession, where there is risk of exposure to traumatic events. This study attempts to redress the paucity of research on stress in the British Army as a result of conflicts since WWII, in addition to countering the lack of research into occupational stress in the British Army, or information of a longitudinal nature. This study also provides a much needed 'baseline' of data across the British Army regarding stress experiences and reactions. The study also incorporates qualitative aspects, where the respondents are asked what they define as stressful experiences, as opposed to completing a list of pre-defined 'stressors', in addition to incorporating interviews to validate the responses. Finally, an individual's evaluation of a situation, or belief in their actions is taken into account in this research. It is argued that this is of particular importance in a military operational context, when soldiers are no longer deploying in defence of their country against an external threat. It was therefore considered important to establish if there were any effects on psychological well-being based on an individual's evaluation of the deployment situation. This research was conducted in two phases: Study 1 which is a cross-sectional study, proportionate to size across the British Army, and Study 2 which is a longitudinal survey, before and after a six month operational deployment to Northern Ireland. The questionnaire material incorporates both standardised questionnaires and a specific Army questionnaire designed for the study. Support was found for the proposed models of both general (Study 1) and operational stress (Study 2). Previous findings were supported concerning the interrelationships between neuroticism, anxiety, emotion focused coping and adverse life events, and were independent of mastery, self esteem, problem focused coping and well-being. Thirty three and thirty nine percent of respondents reported General Health Questionnaire (GHQ12) values above the cut off criteria for Study 1 and Study 2, respectively. Individual differences concerning reported mental health were noted, particularly with respect to age, marital status and the occurrence of a significant life event. Recommendations addressed the lack of clear evidence for adopting a 'screening out' procedure based upon personality characteristics for mainstream Army deployments. It was suggested that the traumatic aspects of the research could benefit from an alternative questionnaire to the Impact of Events Scale (IES), due to some of the difficulties found in using the questionnaire. It was also suggested that coping strategies should be investigated in greater detail, within a more context specific manner with tighter response definitions. Finally, it is believed that the impact of cumulative operational deployments on the mental health of soldiers needs to be thoroughly researched.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: BF Psychology ; RC0321 Neuroscience. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry ; U Military Science (General)