The Health and Well-Being of Military Drone Operators and Intelligence Analysts: A Systematic Review

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Abstract

The aim of this study was to systematically review the existing research on the health and well-being of military drone operators and intelligence analysts in order to provide an overview of research and identify gaps in this area. Six literature databases and 2 databases containing unclassified military reports were searched for relevant papers produced between January 1996 and May 2016. The search criteria were broad to allow for the identification of all relevant studies on the topic. Fifteen studies met the inclusion criteria; all of which were conducted in the U.S. with the U.S. Air Force personnel. The main sources of occupational stress reported by participants across the studies were operational. The rates of mental health diagnoses, including PTSD, were low, but levels of psychological distress were higher in drone and intelligence operators than in comparison groups. Fatigue emerged as a significant concern. It is important that future studies examine a variety of mental and physical health outcomes. The health and well-being of drone operators and intelligence analysts should be studied not just in the U.S., but also in other countries that are using drones for military purposes.

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