Leading civilian UK centre of excellence for military health research

Principal Investigators:

Professor Sir Simon Wessely; Professor Nicola Fear; Dr Sharon Stevelink

Project title

Health and Well-being Study of Serving and ex-Serving members of the UK Armed Forces: A cohort Study


This study has been funded by the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) and the Office for Veterans Affairs (OVA).

Who are we?

The study is carried out by King’s Centre for Military Health Research (KCMHR), King’s College London (KCL), which is the leading civilian United Kingdom (hereafter UK) centre of excellence for military health research. KCMHR is independent of the UK Ministry of Defence (hereafter MoD) and our work has helped shape government policy towards military personnel, veterans and their families. Our research is conducted within the KCL governance framework which ensures that our work is carried out to high scientific and ethical standards.

Background to the study

The study was set up in 2003 to:

(i)              monitor the health and wellbeing of UK Armed Forces personnel who deployed to Iraq (Op TELIC) and later Afghanistan (Op HERRICK);

(ii)            to examine a wide range of issues relevant to the Armed Forces regardless of deployment; and

(iii)           to investigate outcomes in those leaving the military and transitioning to civilian life.

There have been three phases of data collection (Phase 1: 2003-2006, Phase 2: 2006-2009, Phase 3: 2014-2016) when we invited participants to complete a study questionnaire. In addition, Phases 2 and 3 each included interview study components involving a subgroup of questionnaire participants. During 2020, we also carried out a study of experiences of the Covid-19 pandemic in a sub sample of Phase 3 participants (Veterans CHECK).

Participants have been invited to take part in a further phase of the study (Phase 4) if they consented to be followed-up when they took part at Phase 3. Taking part is entirely voluntary.

What information have we/ are we collecting from you during the study

Key areas include socio-demographic and service background, deployment history and experiences, families and relationships, mental health and wellbeing, physical health and injuries, help-seeking, health behaviours, employment experiences (reservists and veterans) and your preferred contact details.

What other information do we collect?

The MoD and OVA provided us with your name, rank, service number and address details so that we are able to contact you to invite you to take part. They also provide service branch, enlistment type, military trade, date of joining and leaving date.

Do you link any of my information with other sources of information?

A data linkage is when one source of information (data) is merged with another source to provide additional information. We have carried out data linkages with Digital NHS, Department of Work and Pensions, the Ministry of Justice Police National Computer and the Service Police Crime Bureau REDCAP database.  This involves sending your name, date of birth and your NHS number or Service number and a unique identification code to the organisation. The requested information is sent to us with your personal information removed.  The information is encrypted and transferred using a secure system. None of your questionnaire responses are sent to the organisations.

Why was the information collected?

The study aims to take a long term look at the pluses and minuses of serving in the UK Armed Forces in general and also to monitor the health and experiences of those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.  It aims to see what happens to people as they progress through their military careers and later on when they leave.  This will improve the understanding of the needs of serving and ex-serving personnel and their families. The information we have collected will help us to meet the aims of the study.

We collect your contact details again on the questionnaire to help to ensure that we have up to date details.  This will enable us to contact you to send you updates about the study and to contact you again for future phases (if you have agreed to be contacted again).

Will the information be shared?

We will not pass your contact details (address, email address, phone numbers) to third parties, including the MoD or OVA except with permission. Nobody outside of the research team will see your questionnaire information in a way that you can be identified.

However, we may share your contact information with third party processors acting on our behalf to invite you to take part in future research. This includes sending you emails or SMS text messages. We will ensure that any third parties we engage with are subject to the same standard of data protection laws as the UK, either through their country’s legislation or through appropriate contractual clauses.

We may also share the information you gave on the questionnaire with other research institutions, but this will not include personal information that would identify you.   With your consent, we may undertake data linkages in which your name, date of birth and your NHS number or Service number will be shared to link with additional information held by other organisations.

How do we keep your information safe and secure?

The information you provide on your questionnaires is held separately to your name and contact information. Personal identifiable information is stored securely, using password protection and encryption. Hard copy questionnaires are stored in locked cabinets in locked offices with restricted access.  Access to the information is restricted to authorised individuals.

How long will the information be kept?

Following Medical Research Council guidelines, we have ethical approval to keep the information for 20 years.  After this time, the information will be securely destroyed.  Should there be a need to continue the study, we will seek the necessary approvals to keep the information for longer.

What is the legal basis for processing the information?

The lawful basis for the processing of this information is:

1.     Article 6(1) e) of the UK General Data Protection Regulation (UK GDPR): processing is necessary for the performance of a task carried out in the public interest or in the exercise of the official authority vested in the controller.

2.     Article 9(2) (j) of the UK General Data Protection Regulation (UK GDPR): processing is necessary for archiving purposes in the public interest, scientific or historical research purposes or statistical purposes in accordance with Article 89(1) based on Union or Member State law which shall be proportionate to the aim pursued, respect the essence of the right to data protection and provide for suitable and specific measures to safeguard the fundamental rights and the interests of the data subject.

How can you access your own data?

You can contact the research team on [email protected] for further information on how to access the data we hold about you.

Rights of access

You have the right to see the information we hold about you. If you would like to access your information please contact the KCL Data Protection Officer: Ms Olenka Cogias (Assistant Director of Business Assurance), Information Compliance team:  King's College London, Waterloo Campus Room 5.20, James Clerk Maxwell Building, 57 Waterloo Road, London, SE1 8WA; or by email: [email protected].

How can I object to my data being used?

Article 21 of the GDPR gives individuals the right to object to the processing of their personal data.

If you wish to object to your personal data being processed please email your reason(s) to the KCL Data Protection Officer: Ms Olenka Cogias (Assistant Director of Business Assurance), Information Compliance team, King's College London, Waterloo Campus Room 5.20, James Clerk Maxwell Building, 57 Waterloo Road, London, SE1 8WA; or by email: [email protected]. Objections will be responded to without undue delay and within one month of receipt.

How can you withdraw from the study?

If you wish to withdraw from the study you can do so by contacting the research team by emailing us as at [email protected]. We will delete from our database the information which identifies you, and securely destroy the contact form that you completed as part of the questionnaire. Your questionnaire answers are being analysed and will be kept; these are held using an ID number.

Further information about your rights and how to complain

For information about your rights under the UK GDPR, such as the right to see the information we hold about you, please see KCL’s core privacy notice: https://www.kcl.ac.uk/terms/privacy. This page also contains details of KCL’s Data Protection Officer and how to make a complaint.


If you wish to raise a complaint on how we have handled your personal data, you can contact our Data Protection Officer who will investigate the matter. If you are not satisfied with our response or believe we are processing your personal data in a way that is not lawful you can complain to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

Our Data Protection Officer is Ms Olenka Cogias (Assistant Director of Business Assurance) and you can contact them at Information Compliance team, King's College London, Waterloo Campus Room 5.20, James Clerk Maxwell Building, 57 Waterloo Road, London, SE1 8WA; or email: [email protected].

Our Privacy Notices are regularly reviewed and updated.

Last reviewed: 15/03/2022; Last updated: 15/03/2022; Updated by: Dr Daniel Leightley

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