Research Article|Articles in Press

Nightmare disorder in active-duty US military personnel

Published:February 09, 2023DOI:


      Study objectives

      Military personnel experience high rates of traumatic experiences. Despite this, few studies have examined the presence of nightmare disorder in military personnel. The primary aim of this study was to examine diagnoses of nightmare disorder across the 4 largest branches of the active-duty US military.

      Design & participants

      Data and service branch densities used to derive the expected rates of diagnoses of nightmare disorder were drawn from the Defense Medical Epidemiology Database. The branches examined included all active-duty services members in the US Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force, who served between 2016 and 2021. Single-sample chi-square goodness of fit tests were conducted to examine within-variable differences for military relevant variables.


      Between 2016 and 2019, the incidence rates of nightmare disorder (per 10,000 service members) in the US Department of Defense ranged from 11.3 in 2016 to a low of 6.9 in 2018. Service members who were classified as non-white, female, over the age of 35, married, in the Army, and/or a noncommissioned officer, were diagnosed at greater rates relative to their representation in the military population (p < .001).


      Our findings of higher than expected rates of nightmare disorder in older, senior service members as well as those in the Army align with the known precipitant of nightmares, and trauma. However, the reason for the finding that female and Black service members have higher than expected rates is not readily apparent.


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