Screening for vulnerability to psychological disorders in the military: An historical survey

Department of Psychological Medicine, Guy's, King's and St Thomas's School of Medicine, 103 Denmark Hill, London SE5 BAZ, UK.
Journal of Medical Screening (Impact Factor: 3.1). 02/2003; 10(1):40-6. DOI: 10.1258/096914103321610798
Source: PubMed


To evaluate attempts in the military to screen for vulnerability to psychological disorders from World War I to the present.
An extensive literature review was conducted by hand-searching leading medical and psychological journals relating to World Wars I and II. Recent publications were surveyed electronically and UK archives investigated for British applications.
Despite the optimism shown in World War I and the concerted efforts of World War II, follow-up studies showed that screening programmes did not succeed in reducing the incidence of psychological casualties. Furthermore, they had a counter-productive effect on manpower, often rejecting men who would have made good soldiers. Continued experimentation with screening methods for psychiatric vulnerability failed to yield convincing results during the post-war period.
Although well-measured variables, such as intelligence, have been shown to predict success in training and aptitude, no instrument has yet been identified which can accurately assess psychological vulnerability. Previous attempts have failed because of false-positives, false-negatives and reluctance in the target population because of stigma. Early findings suggest that psychological surveillance, if not screening, may yield valuable results when applied to military populations exposed to stress.

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    • "Military applicants, unlike patients seeking care for self-perceived symptoms, have an incentive to appear well to qualify for service. The military now focuses on identifying and treating existing mental disorders prior to and just after deployment, rather than predicting propensity for mental health problems later in military career (Hicks, 2011; Jones, Hyams, & Wessely, 2003; Rona, Hyams, & Wessely, 2005). Personality assessment tests have been studied as predictors of job performance and as tools for personnel selection in civilian and military work settings (Knapp & Heffner, 2010; Knapp & Heffner, 2011; Penney, David, & Witt, 2011; Rothstein & Goffin, 2006). "
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    Full-text · Article · Jul 2013 · Psychological Services
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    No preview · Article · Mar 2013 · Industrial psychiatry journal

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