HEALTH / WELL-BEING

The mental health of UK military partners and the variability between stages of deployment

Article

This thesis explores the mental health of military partners at various stages of deployment.

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to identify the prevalence of anxiety, depression, stress, perceived stress, and PTSD symptoms in a UK population of military partners. It also aimed to identify the extent of any relationships between these mental health outcomes and individual differences in previously implicated risk factors (including demographic characteristics and attachment styles) – as well as whether mental health outcomes vary by stage of deployment. A cross-sectional cohort study (n=380) was performed on a sample of UK military partners. A survey was developed and disseminated online which included a number of validated questionnaires measuring constructs of distress (Depression Anxiety Stress Scale-42), perceived stress (Perceived Stress Scale-10), traumatic stress (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Checklist-5) and attachment anxiety and avoidance (Experiences in Close Relationships- Revised). Measurement of defence mechanisms (DSQ-40) has been included within the extended paper for secondary analysis. The results indicate clinical levels of depression, anxiety, stress and perceived stress in military partners and significantly greater levels of distress when compared with prevalence rates in general adult and clinical populations. A number of demographic and deployment specific variables appear to be associated with elevated levels of distress including age, length of relationship, a currently deployed partner and anxious and avoidant attachment styles. Analysis comparing the different stages of deployment found significantly higher depression and stress scores ‘on’ deployment compared to ‘post’ deployment and significantly higher perceptions of stress ‘post and pre’ stage of deployment compared to ‘post’ deployment. Attachment avoidance was also statistically more likely ‘post’ deployment compared to ‘on’ deployment. There were no significant differences on defence mechanisms according to stage of deployment. Findings are discussed in relation to previous evidence and future directions of clinical practice and research. Findings indicate the need for more replicable research to provide evidence for the prevalence of mental health difficulties in a sample of UK military partners. Longitudinal and repeated measure designs would provide a more reliable understanding and clarity of mental health across the stages of deployment. Qualitative accounts might provide a rich and in-depth understanding of the factors mediating and moderating the elevated levels of distress found in this study of military partners. Qualitative enquiry might also provide opportunities to explore other processes underlying the varied levels of distress dependent on stage of deployment, found in this study, and the implications of these. Future research might need to consider how to reduce limitations associated with sampling and study design, though at present, the results provide preliminary support for more specialist and readily accessible mental health services for military partners.

Full Reference

Bennett, Charlene (2017) The mental health of UK military partners and the variability between stages of deployment. DClinPsy thesis, University of Lincoln.