My name is Catherine Hitch; I am a 3rd year PhD researcher at Queens University, Belfast. I have a personal interest in the Armed Force community and have tailored all research projects where possible towards this population. My PhD relates to help-seeking behaviour within the context of mental health and alcohol difficulties, and it specifically targets Northern Ireland veterans. NI veterans are a particularly under researched sub-population and I am honoured to be involved in a seminal project exploring them, funded by the Royal British Legion. I advocate taking a mixed methods approach to attempt to answer those ‘why?’ questions.
Latent class analysis of Northern Ireland veterans regarding mental health and alcohol issues
It is understood that many veterans in the UK suffer mental health difficulties and those difficulties are comorbid, however, little is known about Northern Ireland (NI) veteran mental health specifically. This is of concern as mental health seems to be particularly poor across NI generally and support services for all are limited. A deeper understanding of NI veteran mental health is needed to provide adequate support.
Latent class analysis (LCA) was conducted on NI Veteran Health and Wellbeing Survey data (n=647). Six dichotomous indicator variables were used: PTSD, complex PTSD, depersonalisation/derealisation, anxiety, depression and alcohol.
Four latent classes were identified: (1) high probability of PTSD, alcohol and anxiety comorbidity (3.71%); (2) high probability of complex PTSD with moderate PTSD, depersonalisation/derealisation and alcohol (17.77%); (3) high probability of all mental health difficulties and moderate alcohol (23.80%); (4) no mental health difficulties with a moderate probability of risky alcohol use (54.71%)
Just under half the sample reported comorbid mental health difficulties but the nature of the comorbidities was different depending on class membership. It is concerning that many seem to suffer a range of difficulties, particularly complex PTSD. Of further concern is that a probability of being a risky drinker appeared in each class, at least at a moderate level.
Findings suggest a one-size-fits-all approach to NI veteran mental health cannot be taken due to the nuanced nature of their comorbidities. Special attention also needs to be given to this population to help reduce risky drinking for all.