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Psychological distress and coping in military cadre candidates

Authors Nakkas C, Annen H, Brand S

Received 20 May 2016

Accepted for publication 19 July 2016

Published 29 August 2016 Volume 2016:12 Pages 2237—2243

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/NDT.S113220

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewers approved by Dr Amy Norman

Peer reviewer comments 3

Editor who approved publication: Dr Roger Pinder


Can Nakkas,1 Hubert Annen,1 Serge Brand2,3

1Department of Military Psychology Studies, Military Academy at ETH Zurich, Zurich, 2Psychiatric Clinics of the University of Basel, Center for Affective, Stress and Sleep Disorders, 3Department of Sport, Exercise and Health, Sport Science Section, University of Basel, Basel, Switzerland

Background: Soldiers must cope with stressors during both military operations and training if they are to accomplish their missions successfully and stay mentally stable. This holds true particularly for military superiors, as they bear greater responsibilities and must meet greater demands during both deployment and training. Accordingly, in the present study, we investigated whether recruits chosen for further promotion at the end of basic training differed with regard to psychological distress and coping strategies from those not chosen for promotion, and whether recruits’ coping styles and distress levels were associated.
Methods: A total of 675 Swiss recruits took part in the study. At the beginning of basic training, recruits filled out self-rating questionnaires covering demographic data, psychological distress (depression, somatization, anxiety, interpersonal sensitivity, and hostility), and coping styles. Results were compared between those recruits who received a recommendation for further promotion at the end of basic training and those who did not.
Results: Recruits selected for promotion had lower scores for depressive symptoms and hostility, engaged more in active coping, and considered their coping to be more effective. Dysfunctional and functional coping were associated with higher and lower distress levels, respectively.
Conclusion: Recruits recommended for promotion exhibited less psychological distress during basic training and exhibited a socially more conducive profile of distress. They also endorsed more efficient and more prosocial coping strategies than those recruits not recommended for promotion. These cognitive–emotional features not only contribute to resilience but are also consistent with leadership research, indicating the importance of emotional stability and prosocial behavior in successful leaders.

Keywords: military, training, stress, recruits, coping, leadership

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