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Child abuse is the biggest contributor to mental health problems in the Canadian Armed Forces

March 16, 2016

Among the mental health disorders reported in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) in 2013, 8.7% of the burden of illness was attributed to  Afghanistan-related military service while 28.7% was attributed to past child abuse experiences. This research is out today in The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, published by the Canadian Psychiatric Association (CPA) in partnership with SAGE Publishing.

Examining the 2013 Canadian Forces Mental Health Survey (CFMHS), which includes data from 6,696 fulltime personnel, researchers David Boulos and Mark A. Zamorski found:

  • 18.4% of respondents who were deployed to Afghanistan reported that in 2012, they had significant symptoms of one or more of the following six common mental disorders: generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, thoughts about suicide, post-traumatic stress disorder, alcohol abuse or dependence, or had experienced a major depressive episode.
  • Respondents that were deployed to Afghanistan were 2.4% more likely to have experienced child abuse than those that were not deployed to Afghanistan.
  • The Afghanistan-related deployments accounted for 34.7% of the burden of panic disorder, 32.1% of post-traumatic stress disorder, and 9.3% of major depression.
  • Child abuse accounted for 48.4% of the cases of alcohol dependency, 37.1 % of post-traumatic stress disorders, and 33.8% of the cases of suicidal ideation.
  • Together, Afghanistan-related deployments and child abuse experiences accounted for 38% of any mental disorder, 58.5% of post-traumatic stress disorders, 51.4% of panic disorders, and 37% of major depressive episodes.

“Our findings indicate that a significant proportion of past-year mental disorders in the CAF, particularly post-traumatic stress disorder and panic disorder, were attributed to Afghanistan-related deployments,” wrote Boulos and Zamorski. “However, the contribution from c was much larger. These findings speak to the need for robust mental health systems that target the full range of determinants of mental health in military personnel, both in times of war and in times of peace.”

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The article, “Contribution of the Mission in Afghanistan to the Burden of Past-year Mental Disorders in Canadian Armed Forces Personnel, 2013” by David Boulos and Mark A. Zamorski, published in The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, is free to access for a limited time and can be read here.

This article is a part of the April 2016 supplement of The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, focused on the findings of the 2013 Canadian Forces Mental Health Survey (CFMHS). The supplement includes the following six articles:


Deniz Fikretoglu, Aihua Liu, Mark A. Zamorski, et al.

“Perceived Need for and Perceived Sufficiency of Mental Health Care in the Canadian Armed Forces: Changes in the Past Decade and Comparisons to the General Population.”


Mark A. Zamorski, Bennett RE, David Boulos, et al.

“The 2013 Canadian Forces Mental Health Survey: Background and Methods”


Murray Weeks, Bryan G. Garber and Mark A.  Zamorski

“Disability and Mental Disorders in the Canadian Armed  Forces”



Corneliu Rusu, Mark A.  Zamorski, David Boulos, et al.


“Prevalence Comparison of Past-year Mental Disorders and Suicidal Behaviours in the Canadian Armed Forces and the Canadian General Population”


Mark A. Zamorski, Rachel E. Bennett, Corneliu Rusu, Murray Weeks, David Boulos and  Bryan G. Garber

“Prevalence of Past-year Mental Disorders in the Canadian

Armed Forces, 2002 – 2013”


David Boulos and Mark A. Zamorski

“Contribution of the Mission in Afghanistan to the Burden of Past-year Mental Disorders in Canadian Armed Forces Personnel, 2013”


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Sara Miller McCune founded SAGE Publishing in 1965 to support the dissemination of usable knowledge and educate a global community. SAGE is a leading international provider of innovative, high-quality content publishing more than 900 journals and over 800 new books each year, spanning a wide range of subject areas. Our growing selection of library products includes archives, data, case studies and video. SAGE remains majority owned by our founder and after her lifetime will become owned by a charitable trust that secures the company’s continued independence. Principal offices are located in Los Angeles, London, New Delhi, Singapore, Washington DC and Melbourne.

Established in 1956, The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry (The CJP) is the official journal of the Canadian Psychiatric Association (CPA). Publishing 12 issues a year, The CJP contains original, previously unpublished, peer-reviewed scientific articles related to all aspects of Canadian and international psychiatry.

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