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Newly-published medical study confirms significant therapeutic benefits of Scuba Diving



A seminal study into the therapeutic benefits of scuba diving by students from the University of Sheffield’s Medical School has been published this week.

The study is published in the Journal of Disability and Rehabilitation under the title: “Can scuba diving offer therapeutic benefit to military veterans experiencing physical and psychological injuries as a result of combat? A service evaluation of Deptherapy UK.”

 A research team led by Alice Morgan, and comprising Harriet Sinclair, Alexander Tan and Ellen Thomas, set out to explore the effectiveness of scuba diving in providing therapeutic and rehabilitative benefit to ex-Service personnel who have experienced traumatic physical and/or psychological injuries resulting from combat.

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.

Deptherapy Programme Member Jason Cowan on the first day of his PADI Open Water Diver course. Photo – Dmitry Knyazev for Deptherapy

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.

Psychologist and Deptherapy Vice President Richard Castle, who undertook a supervisory role during the study, said:

“This has been a crucially important piece of research [by the University of Sheffield Medical School] and demonstrates the positive impact that the Deptherapy model can have for ex-Service personnel who have experienced life-changing physical and mental injuries. Crucially, the study also identifies areas where Deptherapy can improve the level of support we offer, and the study recommendations have already been taken forward by the Deptherapy Board. We now need additional resources to monitor the impact going forward, and commission further independent longitudinal research and to widen the evidence base to assess the results of the developments we have initiated.”

Deptherapy Programme Members undertaking open water training at Roots Red Sea. Photo – Dmitry Knyazev for Deptherapy

Richard Cullen, Chairman of Deptherapy said:

“I am so glad that Alice Morgan and team’s paper is now in the public domain. It speaks volumes about our work. At the time of the study we had already become aware of the post-expedition problems that individuals were suffering. We have since developed a first class Buddy Peer Support Scheme, utilising those of our team who are mental health first aid trained to actively support Programme Members when they return home. This has since expanded into increasingly thorough pre-expedition support. Deptherapy offers 24/7 individual support to all programme members. Mental health and safeguarding those we work with is an absolute priority for the Deptherapy charity.”

Deptherapy Ambassador and trainee Divemaster Ben Lee at Roots Red Sea, Egypt. Photo – Dmitry Knyazev for Deptherapy

Deptherapy Ambassador and Trustee Ben Lee is one of the military veterans who has actively benefitted from being introduced to scuba diving through Deptherapy. Double-amputee Ben is currently training to be a Divemaster. The former Royal Engineer recently won the Royal Foundation’s Endeavour Fund ‘Recognising Achievement’ Award. Ben said:

“Scuba diving on the Deptherapy programme has changed my life; I no longer think I can’t do something because of my disabilities, I just jump in and try it. The visible face of Deptherapy is often people like me, those who have lost limbs through IED explosions in Iraq or Afghanistan. Many people see that as the focus of all our efforts but 80% of our programme members suffer from less visible injuries including PTSD, cancer, multiple sclerosis and blindness.

As a trustee of Deptherapy I see the effort that goes in to delivering a programme for each individual that is tailored to their specific needs. On behalf of all the Programme Members I wish to thank the University of Sheffield Medical School for supporting this study and especially to Alice Morgan and her team for a first class insight into what Deptherapy does.”

Details of the full medical study may be found at:

Do you know… it costs £1500 to fund a wounded in service veteran on a PADI Open Water course on the Deptherapy Programme. Deptherapy’s life changing work can only continue if they raise enough funds. The charity receives at least two applications every week from British Armed Forces veterans who would benefit from their Programme. Please help Deptherapy continue to make a difference to their lives. Pledge your support and find out more about Deptherapy & Deptherapy Education at


Dive on with DIVER Magazine’s December 2020 issue



DIVER aren’t calling it the Christmas issue because that’s all up in the air but their theme is full of cheer – underwater treasures to be found in our own backyards!

  • Be The Champ! Special: An extended 100th edition of Alex Mustard’s revered monthly column – with the cream of underwater photographers contributing their own pearls of wisdom.
  • Gun Sites: Two tales of individual divers’ exciting weapons hauls – in Cornwall and in Portugal
  • Treasuremen of Bermuda: Story behind one of the most valuable shipwreck treasures ever recovered
  • Wreckful of Ming: Tech divers discover a thrilling cargo of porcelain south of Phuket
  • Dad Found It: Our correspondent dives a sunken Roman city in southern Italy 50 years after her father discovered it
  • Deep Giants: A marine biologist tends her gorgonian garden – in the 100m zone
  • Road Trip 2: The dive tour of Europe continues as our long-term trippers have fun in summertime UK
  • Timepieces: They might not be necessities but diving watches are still prized accoutrements – here’s a guide to 25 of the latest
  • Twilight Zone: Experience the highs and the lows of Curaçao – with the aid of a submersible

Download your copy of the December 2020 edition of DIVER here!

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Marine Life & Conservation

Get ready for a year of incredible underwater encounters in 2021



Giants from the world of underwater photography have joined forces with Bite-Back Shark & Marine Conservation to create a unique and stunning 2021 calendar to raise funds for its campaigns to make Britain’s retailers shark free.

The line-up of award-winning contributors includes Alex Mustard, Amanda Cotton, Christian Vizl, David Doubilet, Doug Perrine, Ellen Cuylaerts, George Probst, Greg Lecouer, Jason Isley, Laura Storm, Shawn Heinrichs and Tanya Houppermans.

Each photographer has handpicked and donated a breathtaking image along with commentary that features month-by-month in the top class publication.

Campaign director at Bite-Back, Graham Buckingham, said: “This edition is packed with spectacular images to celebrate the marine environment in all its glory. Significantly every purchase of this calendar will directly fund our campaigns to end the trade and consumption of shark products in the UK.”

Alone, Bite-Back has made significant progress in limiting the sale of shark fin soup, shark meat and items containing shark, such as supplements, nationwide.

Graham added: “For the equivalent of £1 a month, we hope scuba divers and ocean lovers will enjoy admiring this rare and magnificent collection of images all year long.  And, of course, it makes a fabulous Christmas present too.”

The high quality A4 calendar is printed on recycled paper using vegetable-based inks by a climate neutral printer. It can be purchased at for £12 (including free UK delivery) and shipped worldwide. Don’t miss out!

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Sharks Bay Umbi Diving Village is a Bedouin-owned resort with stunning views and a lovely private beach. It is ideal for divers as everything is onsite including the resort's jetty, dive centre and house reef. The warm hospitality makes for a diving holiday like no other. There is an excellent seafood restaurent and beach bar onsite, and with the enormous diversity of the Sharm El Sheikh dive sites and the surrounding areas of the South Sinai, there really is something for every level of diver to enjoy.

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