Diabetes risk for PTSD veterans

Published: 8 February 2022

Veterans who have PTSD may be at increased risk of diabetes, according to new research

Veterans who have PTSD may be at increased risk of diabetes, according to new research.

The study, led by the University of Glasgow, in partnership with Forces in Mind Trust and published in BMJ Open, compared veterans with people who had never served, and found that older veterans in Scotland had a slightly higher risk of type 2 diabetes than the general population, and that this increased risk was greater for veterans who also had PTSD.


Previous studies have shown that there is a higher risk of diabetes in people with PTSD, but this is the first study to show that the effect is stronger in veterans.

Lead researcher, Dr Beverly Bergman, Honorary Clinical Associate Professor and leader of the Scottish Veterans Health Research Group at the University of Glasgow, said: “This is the first study examining the risk of type 2 diabetes in veterans in Scotland. We found that overall, veterans had an 8% higher risk of diabetes than non-veterans, but we were surprised to find that one in eight veterans with severe PTSD also had diabetes, compared with one in ten non-veterans with PTSD.

“We believe that the excess risk may be linked to people with mental health disorders leading a less healthy lifestyle. Our findings emphasise the importance of veterans looking after their general health, especially if they are struggling with their mental health. We recognise that it may be difficult to find the motivation, but it is an important part of the pathway to recovery. It is also essential for professionals looking after traumatised veterans to ensure that they are checked for physical conditions such as diabetes.”

This large, retrospective cohort study, using data from the Trends in Scottish Veterans’ Health Study, looked at 78,000 veterans and 253,000 non-veterans in Scotland born between 1945 and 1995, matched for age, sex and area of residence. The study used survival analysis to examine the risk of type 2 diabetes in veterans compared with non-veterans, and explored associations with mental health disorders.

The study, ‘Type 2 Diabetes in Scottish Military Veterans: A Retrospective Cohort Study ’ is published in BMJ Open. The study was funded by Forces in Mind Trust.

Enquiries: ali.howard@glasgow.ac.uk or elizabeth.mcmeekin@glasgow.ac.uk / 0141 330 6557 or 0141 330 4831

First published: 8 February 2022