Peacekeeping missions involve experiences that may impact the mental health of participating soldiers. However, research on the long-term mental health consequences of peacekeeping is sparse. The present study aimed to find the prevalence of mental health problems (MHPs), possible MHP predictors, and associations between predictors and MHPs in Norwegian peacekeepers 18-38 years after deployment to a United Nations peacekeeping mission. We used data from a cross-sectional, postdeployment survey of Norwegian peacekeepers who served in Lebanon between 1978 and 1998 (N = 10,605). Participants were assessed for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD); anxiety; depression; insomnia; alcohol misuse; drug misuse; and exposure to pre-, peri-, and postdeployment stressors. Logistic regressions were executed to explore key variables associated with MHPs. Total MHP prevalence was 15.1%, 95% CI [14.4, 15.8]. The estimates for specific disorders were 0.1% for drug misuse, 3.4% for alcohol misuse, 4.0% for depression, 6.2% for PTSD, 6.4% for anxiety, and 9.3% for insomnia. Postdeployment stressors, OR = 1.91, 95% CI [1.79, 2.04]; employment status, OR = 1.41, 95% CI [1.33, 1.48]; and traumatic exposure during deployment, OR = 1.11, 95% CI [1.09, 1.12], were positively related to PTSD, χ2(17, N = 8,568) = 1,791.299, p < .001. Similar patterns were found for the other MHPs. Considering that most participants (84.9%) reported low symptom levels, our findings challenge the widespread public perception that most peacekeepers have MHPs. Moreover, our results indicate that future peacekeepers should be prepared for challenges they may face not only during deployment but also in the years following their homecoming.
© 2020 The Authors. Journal of Traumatic Stress published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies.