Leading civilian UK centre of excellence for military health research

About the study

We know veterans (those who served in the Armed Forces and have now left) are more likely to face complex co-occurring physical and mental health problems, yet little is known about veterans' health outcomes and their use of health services. This is important because there are numerous services for veterans' mental health needs, but few services tailored to address veterans’ physical health needs, or those with more complex health problems.

To address these challenges, we are launching a study to explore the utility and feasibility of using primary care records for veterans’ health research, and specifically, to determine and characterise the physical and mental health outcomes of veterans.

We will be using data from the Clinical Practice Research Datalink (CPRD) which is one of the world’s largest electronic healthcare databases. The CPRD includes over 60 million anonymised primary care records provided by participating GP practices. We will request access to this data, including information such as:

  • Demographic characteristics.
  • Diagnoses relating to common physical and mental health disorders; for example, cardiovascular conditions, cancers, diabetes, depression, and anxiety.
  • Medication prescriptions; for example, medication used to treat common mental health disorders or high blood pressure.
  • Healthcare utilisation; for example, inpatient admission, specialist referrals, and primary care consultations.

In order to validate that our data is correct, we will also be contacting a number of GP practices to ensure the codes we use to determine veterans are consistent with their records.

The study aims to:

  • Determine veterans in electronic primary care records.
  • Explore whether there are differences between the health needs of veterans compared to those of the general population.

Anticipated impact

This project will aid our understanding about the value of using CPRD as a new data source for veterans’ health research, and it will provide novel information on the long-term mental and physical health profiles of veterans within the UK healthcare system. The proposed study has the potential to inform service provision for veterans and to ensure it is tailored to their needs.


The study has been funded by the Forces in Mind Trust using an endowment awarded by the National Lottery Community Fund.


Dr Gemma Archer

Gemma is a Research Associate at KCMHR. She is an epidemiologist investigating the long-term mental and physical health of military service personnel exposed to chemical warfare agents.

Prof Nicola Fear

Director - King's Centre for Military Health Research

Dr Sharon Stevelink

Dr Sharon Stevelink is a Reader in Epidemiology and she is part of the Department of Psychological Medicine and the King’s Centre for Military Health Research.

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