Male combat veterans’ narratives of PTSD, masculinity, and health

January, 2015

This article advances theory on masculinities and combat veterans by demonstrating that, due to the fluidity of military masculinities, veterans can reconstruct the meaning of military masculinities in ways that benefit their mental health and wellbeing. Such positive reconstructions may also be fortified if veterans are engaged in relationships and narrative environments that support and value these new ways of being masculine. Furthermore, this original research contains practical implications for supporting combat veterans experiencing PTSD.


This article uniquely examines the ways a group of male combat veterans talk about masculinity and how, following post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), they performed masculinities in the context of a surfing group, and what effects this had upon their health and wellbeing. Participant observations and life history interviews were conducted with a group of combat veterans who belonged to a surfing charity for veterans experiencing PTSD. Data were rigorously explored via narrative analysis. Our findings revealed the ways in which veterans enacted masculinities in accordance with the values that were cultivated during military service. These masculine performances in the surfing group had important effects both on and for the veterans' wellbeing. Significantly, the study highlights how masculine performances can be seen alternately as a danger and as a resource for health and wellbeing in relation to PTSD. The article advances knowledge on combat veterans and mental health with critical implications for the promotion of male veterans' mental health. These include the original suggestion that health promoting masculine performances might be recognised and supported in PTSD treatment settings. Rather than automatically viewing masculinity as problematic, this article moves the field forward by highlighting how hegemonic masculinities can be reconstructed in positive ways which might improve veterans' health and wellbeing.

Full Reference

Caddick, N., Smith, B., & Phoenix, C., (2015) Male combat veterans' narratives of PTSD, masculinity, and health. Sociology of Health & Illness, 37(1), 97-111.

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