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PTSD 'most common in young soldiers' says new report

BBC Newsbeat article and video

Soldiers who join the Army as teenagers are more likely to suffer from mental health problems after being deployed, a new report suggests.


View film of David Buck on Newsbeat

Forces Watch, a group which campaigns to raise the minimum age of recruitment to 18, claims those who join up at 16 and 17 are twice as likely to develop post-traumatic stress disorder.

The research pulls together more than 150 studies.

It suggests young recruits are most exposed to stress in frontline roles.

David Buck, 34, joined the army when he was 17.

"I didn't do very well in school," he said. "My brother was in the army as well and I used to be mesmerised by his photographs.

"I just thought it was all guns and camo cream."

When he was 19 he was deployed to Kosovo and says he felt totally unprepared for what he experienced.

"I was still wet behind the ears," he said. "I didn't come back from there the same person. It was the aftermath of a genocide."

He says soon after returning from Kosovo he began to suffer from mental health problems.

Despite that, he says he felt he still had more to achieve in the army and volunteered to go to Iraq.

"One day we'd go up one route and it would be fine," he said.

"The next day someone else would go up and there'd be a roadside bomb that would kill two or three soldiers."

Years later David was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The Forces Watch report claims under-18s are over-represented in the infantry, even though they can't be deployed until they're 18.

It wants older, more experienced soldiers to share the responsibility of frontline stress.

The Ministry of Defence says it has no plans to change the recruitment policy for the armed forces.

In a statement it said: "This report completely ignores the benefits and opportunities that a military career offers young people.

"It is also important to put these figures in context as independent research shows the rates of PTSD are similar to rates in the civilian population."

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