The dangers of being a soldier depend on the kind of job you have in the army and whether you're sent to war.

What are the risks?

There are three main risks in war:

  1. Being killed.
  2. Being injured (e.g. legs blown off).
  3. Mental illness after (e.g. after seeing someone killed). 

What are the threats?

The British armed forces in Afghanistan were asked what threats they faced most often. This is what they said:

 

war main threats 2

 

How many soldiers are harmed in war?

Most soldiers were not injured while in Iraq or Afghanistan. For example, in 2009 there were 183,000 people in the regular armed forces, and:

  • 98 died in Afghanistan.
  • 508 were wounded in Afghanistan (158 were seriously or very seriously injured).

Soldiers are much more likely to suffer harm to their mind than to the body. For example:

  • Experts believe that 1 in 25 British soldiers suffered from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) when they came back from Iraq or Afghanistan.
  • Problems like depression are twice as common in the army as in civilian life.
  • Mental health problems tend to get worse after soldiers leave the army.

Are some soldiers more or less likely to be hurt?

Yes.

  • In Afghanistan, the chance of being killed or injured in the INFANTRY was six times greater than in the rest of the army.
  • PTSD is about twice as common among soldiers with direct combat jobs (including the infantry), compared with other army jobs.
  • Soldiers who come from troubled backgrounds are much more likely to have mental health problems while in the army and afterwards.

So, in general, people who have had a tough time as a child and then join the infantry face the biggest risks.

On the other hand, soldiers working away from enemy forces (e.g. driving trucks, moving stores) were less likely to be harmed in Afghanistan. Even then, some of these support jobs can also be dangerous - an army dog handler can be killed while their dog is sniffing out roadside bombs, for example.

In summary

  1. Being a soldier is a dangerous job, allthough most soldiers have not been seriously harmed in recent wars.
  2. The risks are bigger for soldiers in the infantry or another front line job, and smaller for those with other kinds of army job.
  3. Mental health problems are more common than injuries to the body - particularly among young infantry who have had a tough childhood.
  4. There is no army job that is completely safe.

Next

Do all soldiers have to kill people?...

 

Sources: Ministry of Defence, Kings Centre for Military Health Research, D Gee, 'The Last Ambush'