Comparison of past-year mental health services use in Canadian Army, Navy, and Air Force personnel [2019]

Introduction: What causes the excess burden of mental disorders and related outcomes in the Army remains unclear. Deployment-related trauma has been one intuitive explanation. However, there may be other factors at play – for example, lower mental health services use (MHSU) in Army personnel. This study compares MHSU across the Canadian Army, Navy, and Air Force.

Methods: Data were drawn from the 2013 Canadian Forces Mental Health Survey. The sample consisted of Regular Force members (N = 6,696). The primary outcomes for past-year MHSU were: (1) any past-year MHSU; (2) intensity of care (total clinical contact hours), and (3) perceived helpfulness of care (PHC). Modified Poisson regression and analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) were used to assess the relationship between the element (Army, Navy, Air Force) and each outcome, adjusting for sociodemographic and military characteristics, as well as clinical variables such as the presence of five past-year mental disorders.

Results: In unadjusted analyses, Army personnel had significantly greater past-year MHSU and intensity of care relative to Air Force personnel. No significant relationship was found between the element and any of the MHSU parameters after adjustment.

Discussion: Differences in past-year MHSU are an unlikely contributing factor to the higher risk of mental disorders and related outcomes among Army personnel; the true explanation must lie elsewhere. Findings argue for a system-wide, and not element-specific, approach to improving CAF programs and services.

Brigitte Phinney, Mark Zamorski, Deniz Fikretoglu
Journal of Military, Veteran and Family Health, January 17, 2019