Understanding the risk of developing dementia in UK military veterans

Research project: Are older military veterans at increased risk of developing mild cognitive impairment and dementia compared with those who never served? 

Lead Investigator: Professor Neil Greenberg

  • Institution: King’s College London
  • Grant type: PhD studentship
  • Duration: 36 months
  • Amount: £88,118

Why did we fund this research?

Comments from our Research Network volunteers:

As the proportion of men over 55 with military experience is higher than that of younger generations due to conscription, this research could significantly benefit a large number of older men, in addition to younger people of both sexes in the future.

Project summary

Due to the nature of their jobs, unfortunately, military veterans are at an increased risk of living with poor mental health. This may have an impact on their chance of developing dementia in later life.

This project aims to understand whether veterans in the UK are more at risk of developing dementia and inform the development of services that can address their needs.

The background 

In the UK, there are around 2.6 million military veterans, many of whom are about to enter retirement age.

Due to the nature of their work, veterans may be more often at risk of experiencing mental health issues and mild cognitive impairment (MCI), which is an unexpected change in memory and thinking ability but does not interfere generally with daily life.   Research has shown that that poorer mental health and MCI could contribute to an increased risk of dementia in later life.

Whilst there is some research focusing on mental health issues in army veterans in the US, this research has not been carried out in the UK. The aim of this study is to understand whether veterans of Armed Forces in the UK are at increased risk of developing MCI and dementia later in life.

What does this project involve?

The PhD student working on this project will look at data from three separate research databases that have already collected information from UK-based ex-serving military veterans. 

This information has been collected from veterans with and without dementia, as well as people from the general population. This will help to build a better picture of the experience of veterans with and without dementia and draw comparisons between them.

The student will be collating this data and analysing it to find out if veterans with mental health difficulties are at all more likely to develop MCI or dementia, compared to people who have never served in the UK Armed Forces. 

How will this project help people with dementia?

This project will generate new knowledge on the experience of people with dementia who are veterans and living in the UK – which we know very little about. 

The research team hope the results of this project will help to inform the potential development of services for older military veterans.

If we can identify risk factors for dementia and MCI that can be changed, this could mean we can reduce the numbers of veterans (as well as their friends and family) who may be affected by dementia in the future.

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