New publication about the long-term development op depressive symptoms after deployment

PhD student Xandra Plas, along with colleagues, has published a new paper on the long-term development of depressive symptoms among military personnel. 

Research aims

Military missions can lead to mental health problems, including depressive symptoms. It is important to understand how these symptoms develop after deployment to prevent them or better accommodate these symptoms in mental health care policies. The aim of this research was to gain insight into the development of depressive symptoms up to 10 years after deployment in the Dutch military. Additionally, factors associated with these symptoms were investigated, including age, gender, any traumatic experiences at a young age, symptoms of PTSD, and the level of stress during the mission.

Results of the study

Based on data from the PRISMO cohort (approximately 1000 military men and women), four different trajectories were identified for the development of depressive symptoms: resilient (65%), intermediate-stable (20%), symptomatic-chronic (9%), and late-onset-increasing (6%). The majority of the individuals in this study fell within the resilient trajectory, suggesting that deployed military personnel demonstrate high levels of resilience.

The trajectories of depression are associated with various factors. Military personnel in the symptomatic-chronic trajectory reported the highest number of traumatic experiences at a young age, while those in the resilient trajectory less frequently experienced stressful events during deployment. Finally, military personnel in trajectories with more depressive symptoms also exhibited more PTSD symptoms.

De grafiek toont de vier trajecten van depressie.
Image: ©Journal of Affective Disorders
Predicted depression trajectories and individual depression scores over several time points. Abbreviations: SCL-90, Short Checklist-90; m, month; y, year.


The research demonstrates that depressive symptoms can develop in various ways after deployment and often remain stable over time. It is important to closely monitor individuals within an increasing trajectory, even after they have completed their military service and transitioned to civilian life. Additionally, the symptomatic-chronic trajectory, characterized by high and persistent depressive symptoms, underscores the importance of continuously providing mental health support.