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Surveys of occupational stress were undertaken in 1999 and 2004.To measure the prevalence of psychological strain and exposure to work-related stressors in personnel.A cross-sectional survey using a validated, reliable questionnaire was undertaken in 1999 and was replicated in 2004. The data were combined and models of stress–strain were developed for male and female personnel in the Royal Navy (RN) and males in the Royal Marines (RM).The response rates were 78% in 1999 and 67% in 2004. Strain prevalence was 32% in 1999 and 33.5% in 2004. Strain rates were higher in females than in males and in personnel serving at sea. Reduced organizational commitment was associated with strain in males and females. Dissatisfaction with the physical work environment was associated with strain in RN females and RM. Role conflict was associated with strain in all groups. Work–family conflict was associated with strain in males, but not in females. The models accounted for 20–30% of the variance in strain.The strain rate in the Naval Service appeared to be similar to that in the other service occupations such as the UK Police, as did the sex difference in strain. The strain rate and stressor exposure ratings were remarkably stable over the period. Role conflict was found to be a generic stressor associated with strain.