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Disabil Rehabil. 2018 Jun 29:1-9. doi: 10.1080/09638288.2018.1480667. [Epub ahead of print]

Can scuba diving offer therapeutic benefit to military veterans experiencing physical and psychological injuries as a result of combat? A service evaluation of Deptherapy UK.

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a The Medical School, The University of Sheffield , Sheffield , North Yorkshire , UK.



To explore the effectiveness of scuba diving in providing therapeutic and rehabilitative benefit to ex-service personnel who have experienced traumatic physical and/or psychological injuries resulting from combat.


This study took the form of a service evaluation of Deptherapy, a UK-based niche charity offering support to military veterans who have experienced life-changing injuries. Deptherapy provides scuba diving qualifications, consisting of theory and practical diving experience, to participants alongside a Peer Support Buddy scheme that provides continuing support to servicemen involved with the charity. A total of 15 male veterans were invited to take part in the study. The methodology comprised retrospective and current quantitative measures of mental well-being and functional ability, utilising the General Health Questionnaire-28, and subsequent semi-structured interviews with participants, their families and health professionals.


Participants reported an improvement in levels of anxiety, depression and social functioning, and a reduction in insomnia, following their involvement in organised scuba diving activities. There was a mean average difference of 14.3 points improvement on the General Health Questionnaire-28 scale variants between prior interaction with Deptherapy and current perceptions following engagement with the programme. The positive perceptions, as indicated from the semi-structured interviews, were more pronounced in those whose injuries were predominantly psychological, rather than physical.


Scuba diving can offer significant therapeutic benefits, particularly for ex-military amputees experiencing co-morbid anxiety and/or chronic psychological adjustment disorders, notably in terms of improvements in social dysfunction and symptomology of depression. Implications for Rehabilitation Scuba Diving as a Therapy Military combat can result in devastating, chronic physical and/or psychological injury. Current research suggests that a combination of medical and psychological therapy may prove to be the most beneficial for military veterans. Scuba diving has the potential to benefit injured veterans due the requirement of complete focus and the feeling of weightlessness when underwater. This article evaluates whether scuba diving is an effective physical and psychological therapy through GHQ-28 analysis and veteran interviews. Scuba diving benefited injured veterans in terms of chronic pain relief and depression symptoms alleviation.


Veterans; post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); psychosocial rehabilitation; reactive depression; scuba diving

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