Article open access publication

Risk of depressive disorder following disasters and military deployment: systematic review with meta-analysis

The British Journal of Psychiatry, Royal College of Psychiatrists, ISSN 0007-1250

Volume 208, 4, 2016

DOI:10.1192/bjp.bp.114.157859, Dimensions: pub.1064192023, PMID: 26892850,



  1. (1) Department of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Bispebjerg University Hospital
  2. (2) Danish Veteran Centre, Copenhagen
  3. (3) Psychiatric Centre Bispebjerg, Bispebjerg University Hospital
  4. (4) Department of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Bispebjerg University Hospital, and Department of Public Health, University of Copenhagen
  5. (5) University of Copenhagen, grid.5254.6, KU
  6. (6) Department of Public Health, University of Copenhagen, National Research Centre for the Working Environment, and Department of Psychology, University of Copenhagen, Denmark






BACKGROUND: Numerous studies describe the occurrence of post-traumatic stress disorder following disasters, but less is known about the risk of major depression. AIMS: To review the risk of depressive disorder in people surviving disasters and in soldiers returning from military deployment. METHOD: A systematic literature search combined with reference screening identified 23 controlled epidemiological studies. We used random effects models to compute pooled odds ratios (ORs). RESULTS: The average OR was significantly elevated following all types of exposures: natural disaster OR = 2.28 (95% CI 1.30-3.98), technological disaster OR = 1.44 (95% CI 1.21-1.70), terrorist acts OR = 1.80 (95% CI 1.38-2.34) and military combat OR = 1.60 (95% CI 1.09-2.35). In a subset of ten high-quality studies OR was 1.41 (95% CI 1.06-1.87). CONCLUSIONS: Disasters and combat experience substantially increase the risk of depression. Whether psychological trauma per se or bereavement is on the causal path is unresolved.

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