Young women most likely to have PTSD of all demographics and more likely than members of the Armed Forces

Analysis of new data from the Ministry of Defence finds that the rate of PTSD among serving personnel is 0.2%, with 8% needing to be initially assessed for the condition.

By comparison, the NHS’ Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey finds that 12.6% of women aged 16-24 years old screened positive for PTSD (compared with 3.6% of men of the same age).

The analysis of the data comes from Clerkenwell Health, a British start-up that designs and delivers clinical trials to find cutting-edge psychedelic treatments for complex mental health conditions including PTSD, alcohol use disorder and depression. They also found that Black/Black British adults were significantly more likely to screen positive for PTSD, at 8.3% compared with 4.2% of their White British counterparts. Similarly, economically inactive people were more likely to screen positive for PTSD (10.5%) than their employed counterparts (2.7%)

The symptoms of PTSD include:

  • Re-experiencing (including recurrent distressing images, thoughts, dreams or perceptions of the event)
  • Avoidance and numbing (avoiding thoughts, feelings, activities or conversations associated with the trauma; diminished interest or participation in activities, feelings of detachment or estrangement from others)
  • Hyperarousal (including difficulty falling or staying asleep, irritability or outbursts of anger, difficulty concentrating, hypervigilance and an exaggerated startle response)

Rates of PTSD amongst veterans were higher in those who had previously deployed to Iraq and/or Afghanistan. But despite the surprisingly low prevalence of PTSD specifically, 1 in 8 (13.2%) UK Armed Forces personnel were seen in military healthcare for a mental health related reason in 2022/23, with Adjustment disorder and Depressive episodes the most common disorders requiring specialist mental health care. Females sought help more than males, similar to that seen in the UK general population.

The overall rate of Armed Forces personnel seen for any mental health related reason remained broadly comparable to the UK general population, but the rate of those needing specialist mental health treatment was lower in the UK armed forces than that seen in the UK general population.

The next NHS Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey is due later this year, but it is clear there has been a sharp increase in the number of people seeking contact with NHS mental health services – rising from 1.3 million people a month in June 2020 to 1.75 million people a month by March 2023. Clerkenwell Health is now working on designing and delivering several trials around testing the use of psychedelics such as psilocybin to treat a range of mental health conditions, and are actively recruiting triallists for potential upcoming trials.

Clare Knight, Senior Clinical Trial Manager at Clerkenwell Health, said:

“PTSD is a severe condition with distressing symptoms including flashbacks, nightmares and numbing. It may seem surprising that young women are more affected than members of the Armed Forces, but this just shows that serious trauma can be felt right across society.

“What’s also clear is that increasing numbers of people are being affected by mental health problems – and the NHS is struggling to cope with the growing pressure. More than eight million people in England alone are on antidepressants, rising by over a million people in just five years, and only 50% of psychological therapies are moved to recovery.

“Psychedelic drugs offer new potential for treatments of complex mental health conditions like PTSD. We are actively recruiting participants for trials to help us find the next wave of treatments that could transform lives.”


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