Thousands of British troops have experienced serious mental health problems following service in Iraq, British newspapers reported on Sunday.
A major government study will reveal this week how depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder among service personnel in Iraq has increased dramatically since the war was declared in March 2003, said The Observer, according to the most authoritative study ever undertaken into the psychological impact of war on British soldiers.
The research was carried out by a specialist unit at King's College London, and was funded by the Ministry of Defense (MoD).
Iraq has exerted an unforeseen level of psychological illness among British armed forces, the research shows.
The study will criticize the MoD for not doing enough to support soldiers and their families. In particular, it says the 8,000 Territorial Army recruits who have served in Iraq are most at risk from suffering stress disorders because they receive even less support than regular soldiers following a tour of duty.
According to the report, the King's College research detected that an incidence of mental health problems was far higher than official MoD statistics indicate and above rates recorded from the 1991 Iraq war when thousands of British troops claimed they suffered so-called Gulf War syndrome.
Current MoD figures revealed that just 1.5 percent of service personnel - less than 1,400 - have been evacuated from Iraq to Britain with serious psychiatric problems.
However, levels of trauma among British troops are reported to be nowhere near as high as those recorded among U.S. troops who have served in Iraq. U.S. official studies revealed that up to a fifth of Iraq veterans have suffered some form of psychiatric illness.
The suicide attacks and relentless bombings, along with a growing disillusionment among soldiers as Iraq shows signs of heading towards civil war, have made Iraq a uniquely troubling combat theatre for soldiers.
Currently, about 8,000 British troops are based in four southern provinces in Iraq. And the number of British troops killed in Iraq has raised to 109 since March 2003.