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Stress, Loneliness Top Issues for Military Spouses

July 6, 2021 by Dan McCue
Homecoming. (Photo by Senior Airman Tiffany Emery 927th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs)

Spouses of military reservists feel they are healthy and financially comfortable, but more of them complained of stress and loneliness in a survey released Tuesday by the Department of Defense.

The survey of Reserve Component Spouses is conducted every two years, and along with the Survey of Active Duty Spouses, represents the “gold standard” of surveys intended to identify the needs of military spouses, the department said.

Its findings are used to help the Pentagon understand how its programs, policies and resources might better support and impact this population.

For the latest survey, the department reached out to more than 50,000 spouses of individuals in the Army National Guard, Army Reserve, Navy Reserve, Marine Corps Reserve, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve, with about 15% responding to the survey.

Topics covered in the survey included spouse support to stay in the military, employment and finances, activation and deployment, reunion and reintegration, and spouse and child well-being.

The Pentagon noted that due to the timing of the survey — answers were collected in 2019 — the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic were not captured in the results.

“The survey shows that 62% of Reserve Component spouses indicated that their health is very good or excellent, and 68% of Reserve Component spouses reported that they are financially comfortable,” said Dr. Paul Rosenfeld, director of the Center for Retention and Readiness within the Office of People Analytics.

The results are in line with the data collected in 2017.

Of the reserve members themselves, 69% said they were satisfied with military life; just over half, 53%, said they were satisfied with their opportunities for promotion in their unit, 61% were satisfied with their compensation, and 68% were satisfied with the quality of their coworkers.

The survey also indicated that current levels of personal stress are higher than average at about 37%, and that stress and loneliness were concerns among National Guard and reserve spouses whose husband/wife had been deployed in the past 24 months. 

During the survey period, reserve members averaged 46 nights away from home. in the preceding 12 months, because of military duties

These themes are also reported among active-duty spouses.

“Understanding trends among spouses and what really matters most helps DOD improve and prioritize policies, programs and resources to help military families thrive,” said Patricia Montes Barron, deputy assistant secretary of defense for Military Community and Family Policy. 

“We are committed to engaging and listening to our military spouses. COVID-19 has provided an opportunity for us to reimagine processes for families and I want to ensure the voice we use is inclusive of military spouses,” she said.

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