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Body image and psychosocial well-being among UK military personnel and veterans who sustained appearance-altering conflict injuries

APA Citation:

Keeling, M., Williamson, H., Williams, V. S., Kiff, J., Evans, S., Murphy, D., & Harcourt, D. (2023). Body image and psychosocial well-being among UK military personnel and veterans who sustained appearance-altering conflict injuries. Military Psychology, 35(1), 12-26. https://doi.org/10.1080/08995605.2022.2058302

Abstract Created by REACH:

This study investigated the psychological and social impacts of appearance-altering injuries (e.g., scarring, limb loss) among 23 United Kingdom Veterans or Service members who sustained their injuries during deployment or training. Semi-structured interviews with these participants revealed 6 broad themes about appearance-related challenges, coping, and support.


Mental health

Branch of Service:

International Military

Military Affiliation:

Active Duty

Subject Affiliation:

Active duty service member


Adulthood (18 yrs & older)
Young adulthood (18 - 29 yrs)
Thirties (30 - 39 yrs)
Middle age (40 - 64 yrs)


Cross sectional study
Qualitative Study


Keeling, Mary, Williamson, Heidi, Williams, Victoria S., Kiff, James, Evans, Sarah, Murphy, Dominic, Harcourt, Diana


A modest but significant number of military personnel sustained injuries during deployments resulting in an altered-appearance (e.g., limb loss and/or scarring). Civilian research indicates that appearance-altering injuries can affect psychosocial wellbeing, yet little is known about the impact of such injuries among injured personnel. This study aimed to understand the psychosocial impact of appearance-altering injuries and possible support needs among UK military personnel and veterans. Semi-structured interviews with 23 military participants who sustained appearance-altering injuries during deployments or training since 1969 were conducted. The interviews were analyzed using reflexive thematic analysis, identifying six master themes. These themes indicate that in the context of broader recovery experiences, military personnel and veterans experience a variety of psychosocial difficulties related to their changed appearance. While some of these are consistent with evidence from civilians, military-related nuances in the challenges, protective experiences, coping approaches, and preferences for support are evident. Personnel and veterans with appearance-altering injuries may require specific support for adjusting to their changed appearance and related difficulties. However, barriers to acknowledging appearance concerns were identified. Implications for support provision and future research are discussed.

Publication Type:

REACH Publication


body image, combat injuries, limb-loss, military veterans, scarring

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REACH Publication Type:

Research Summary

REACH Newsletter:

  January 2023

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