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The challenge of transition from service to civilian life is explored through the experiences of a sample of 225 UK army veterans between 1945 and 2000. All subjects had a war pension for a psychological disorder, and most had served overseas in combat roles. Statements about issues of adjustment and health were analyzed by the constant comparison method. Although 20 themes were identified, three (‘anxiety, nerves and depression’, ‘enduring illness attributed to combat exposure’, and ‘illness interferes with the ability to find or keep employment’) accounted for 46% of the total and were reported by between 53% and 86% of subjects. Consistency was observed in the ranking of themes over time. In content, they replicate those reported by veterans of recent conflicts, suggesting that the core issues of transition have an enduring quality. Most statements (66%) date from the 1940s, a time when the application process for a pension required the veteran to provide an explanation for his illness. A rise in the number of statements during the 1980s and 1990s reflected wider cultural acceptance of post-traumatic illness and veteran population entering retirement with time to reflect on defining experiences.

Original publication




Journal article


International Review of Psychiatry

Publication Date





14 - 24