Journal Article

Assessing Psychological Fitness in the Military – Development of an Effective and Economic Screening Instrument

Ulrich Wesemann, Gerd D Willmund, Jörn Ungerer, Günter Kreim, Peter L Zimmermann, Antje Bühler, Michael Stein, Jakob Kaiser and Jens T Kowalski

in Military Medicine

Volume 183, issue 7-8, pages e261-e269
Published in print July 2018 | ISSN: 0026-4075
Published online June 2018 | e-ISSN: 1930-613X | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/milmed/usy021
Assessing Psychological Fitness in the Military – Development of an Effective and Economic Screening Instrument

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  • Medicine and Health
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Abstract

Background

There are a high number of soldiers with deployment-related and non-deployment-related mental health problems in the German Armed Forces (Bundeswehr): This has led to an increase in mental disorders and a decrease in quality of life. To tackle these problems and to strengthen resources among the Bundeswehr personnel, this study aims at developing a screening instrument for assessing the psychological fitness of soldiers on the basis of questionnaire scales. In this approach, psychological fitness describes a soldier’s ability to integrate and enhance his/her mental and emotional capabilities using resources and trainable skills.

Methods

Bundeswehr combat soldiers (N = 361) answered questionnaires about resilience (RS-11), sense of coherence (SOC-L9), quality of life (WHOQOL-BREF), mental disorders (PHQ-D) and post-traumatic growth (PTG). Additionally, they were interviewed by trained troop psychologists both before and after their deployment in Afghanistan from January to June 2014. The screening model is based on self-report data; the psychological fitness in the standardized interview serves as a validation standard.

Findings

A linear logistic regression model was performed that includes the social relationship and the psychological scale from WHOQOL-BREF and the somatoform and the stress scale from PHQ. This model allows specialists a first assessment between participants who are psychologically fit before and after deployment and those who are less so. The chosen cutoff for sensitivity is between 70% and 79% and for specificity between 70% and 85%.

Discussion

This screening approach is still not applicable to large populations like that of the Bundeswehr, which currently has about 170,000 soldiers but it is limited to deployed combat troops. Classifying psychological fitness allows specialists to differentiate between people in need of special training or additional diagnostic measures and those in need of sustaining their fitness regularly at the earliest possible stage. A follow-up study that is representative of deployed and non-deployed military personnel will examine whether these results can be transferred to the entire Bundeswehr and whether the validity of the interview can be established.

Keywords: Mental health; military personnel; work; health promotion; quality of life; prediction

Journal Article.  5276 words. 

Subjects: Medicine and Health ; Emergency Medicine ; Trauma and Orthopaedic Surgery ; Military Psychology ; Warfare and Defence

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