Background: Military service constitutes a stressful phase of an individual’s life, which can have psychological consequences and affect both their mental and physical health. Different variables in this regard have been examined so far, but the role of average length of service has gone unnoticed to a great extent.
Objectives: As a result, the present study was an attempt to examine the effect of military service length on soldiers’ mental health assessed by the use of the four subscales present in the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ- 28).
Patients and Methods: Seven-hundred soldiers from three different randomly selected military bases in the North, Center, and South of Iran took part in the present study. Data were collected on the participants’ demographical information as well as their general health condition using GHQ-28.
Results: Nearly 11 percent of the participants were diagnosed as having psychological disorders. The average service length for those diagnosed with psychological disorders was found to be 14.36 months (SD = 2.93), while it was only 8.5 months (SD = 1.89) in the case of healthy soldiers. Depressive symptoms were the most common problem among soldiers, with anxiety and social dysfunction standing second and third, respectively. The difference between the two groups’ length of service was found statistically significant in the case of all the three constructs being examined (p depression = 0.00, p anxiety = 0.03, p social dysfunctioning = 0.01).
Conclusions: Soldiers represent a major proportion of the male population in the society in Iran, and their health condition can indicate the society’s general health condition. However, it seems that as one’s length of service increases, the risk of suffering from psychological disorders is raised, which threatens the whole society’s psychological health conditions. The results of the present study imply that in order to have healthier individuals in the army and the society as a result, authorities need to take action.