Risk Factors for Moral Injury Among Canadian Armed Forces Personnel

Bethany Easterbrook, Rachel A. Plouffe, Stephanie A. Houle, Aihua Liu, Margaret C. McKinnon, Andrea R. Ashbaugh, Natalie Mota, Tracie O. Afifi, Murray W. Enns, J. Don Richardson, Anthony Nazarov (Lead / Corresponding author)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
1 Downloads (Pure)


Objectives: The traumatic nature of high-risk military deployment events, such as combat, is well-recognized. However, whether other service-related events and demographic factors increase the risk of moral injury (MI), which is defined by consequences of highly stressful and morally-laden experiences, is poorly understood. Therefore, the objective of this study was to examine determinants of MI in Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) personnel. 

Methods: Data were obtained from the 2018 Canadian Armed Forces Members and Veterans Mental Health Follow-up Survey (CAFVMHS; unweighted n = 2,941). To identify military characteristics, sociodemographic variables, and deployment-related factors associated with increased levels of MI, a series of multiple linear regressions were conducted across deployed and non-deployed groups. 

Results: When all variables were considered among the deployed personnel, rank, experiencing military related sexual trauma, child maltreatment (i.e., physical abuse, emotional abuse and neglect), and stressful deployment experiences were significant predictors of increased MI total scores (β = 0.001 to β = 0.51, p < 0.05). Feeling responsible for the death of an ally and inability to respond in a threatening situation were the strongest predictors of MI among stressful deployment experiences. Within the non-deployed sample, experiencing military-related or civilian sexual trauma and rank were significant predictors of increased MI total scores (β = 0.02 to β = 0.81, p < 0.05). 

Conclusion: Exposure to stressful deployment experiences, particularly those involving moral-ethical challenges, sexual trauma, and childhood maltreatment were found to increase levels of MI in CAF personnel. These findings suggest several avenues of intervention, including education and policies aimed at mitigating sexual misconduct, as well as pre-deployment training to better prepare military personnel to deal effectively with morally injurious experiences.

Original languageEnglish
Article number892320
Number of pages12
JournalFrontiers in Psychiatry
Publication statusPublished - 11 May 2022


  • child maltreatment
  • deployment
  • mental health
  • military personnel
  • moral injury
  • post-traumatic
  • stress disorder

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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