The study took the form of a service evaluation of Deptherapy, the UK-based charity offering support to military veterans who have experienced life-changing injuries. Deptherapy provides scuba diving qualifications, consisting of theory and practical diving experience, to participants alongside a Buddy Peer Support scheme that provides continuing support to veterans involved with the charity.
A total of 15 male veterans were invited to take part in the study, which took place in 2016 but has only just been published. The methodology comprised retrospective and current quantitative measures of mental well-being and functional ability, utilising the General Health Questionnaire-28, and subsequent semi-structured interviews with participants, their families and health professionals.
Participants reported an improvement in levels of anxiety, depression and social functioning, and a reduction in insomnia, following their involvement in organised scuba diving activities. In particular, the positive perceptions, as indicated from the interviews, were more pronounced in those whose injuries were predominantly psychological, rather than physical.
The study concluded that scuba diving can offer significant therapeutic benefits, particularly for ex-military amputees experiencing co-morbid anxiety and/or chronic psychological adjustment disorders such as PTSD, notably in terms of improvements in social dysfunction and the symptology of depression.
Until now, medical research into scuba diving as a therapy for injury and disability has been very limited. This study, therefore, offers both considerable insight into the potential of scuba diving as a therapeutic aid, as well as independent validation of the actual benefits of the Deptherapy Scuba Diving programme, as well as recommendations for further development.