Salute to Spouses Blog

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New Report on the Health of Military Wives

By Christine Cioppa

A recent report’s introductory line says what every military family member already knows: “The families of military personnel are a resilient group of men, women, and children who endure many hardships for their country.”

What most people don’t know is how those hardships may harm the health of military children and spouses.

Thanks to a new report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), now, we know, at least a little more.

The constant moving, along with the absence of a spouse on deployment, as well as other hardships, may influence wellness, researchers say. Now, though, more information on the extent of the increased risk is known.

In this first-time-ever report, produced by the SAMHSA, experts compared female military spouses (ages 18-49) and children (ages 12 to 17) to women and children from the general population. The report, released in November 2016, uses data from 2015 and involves 910,000 military spouses.

Here’s what researchers found:

Military wives were:

  • Less likely (by 3%) than all married women to use marijuana.
  • No more likely to use illicit drugs than married women in the general population.
  • No more likely than other married women to be receiving substance use treatment.
  • No more likely than women in the general population to receive mental health treatment.
  • More likely to use alcohol than all married women in the last 30 days (68% versus 54%) and more likely to binge drink (9% more likely) than married women in the general population (however, it is suggested the figures skew higher because of the younger population; more military wives were between 18 to 25).
  • More likely to experience any mental illness (29% versus 20%), however, no more likely to have major depressive episodes in the past year than women in the general population.

The report found military children ages 12 to 17 were no more likely than children in the general population to use substances or have mental health issues.

“It is vitally important that we do everything possible to meet the behavioral healthcare needs of people who have sacrificed so much for our nation,” said SAMHSA Principal Deputy Administrator Kana Enomoto, in a statement released by SAMHSA. “This report will help SAMHSA and others in the field offer programs better designed to address issues that affect military wives and children.”

SAMHSA specifically tells Salute to Spouses:

“The report demonstrates SAMHSA’s ongoing commitment to tracking and responding to the behavioral health needs of our nation’s military and veteran families.

“SAMHSA’s Service Members, Veterans and their Families Technical Assistance Center (SMVF TA) has been working to ensure that states and territories have the skills and support they need in creating culturally competent, behavioral health systems ready to address the unique experiences that our military and veteran families face by helping them to develop a behavioral health workforce that is ready to serve them. To date the strategic planning work the agency has been providing to the states has reached 49 states, 4 territories and the District of Columbia, with the final state joining this year. Much of the focus of the technical assistance is on meeting the needs of military and veteran families, addressing substance use and suicide risk.

“SAMHSA, alongside our partners at the Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs, have been working in conjunction to share federal resources aimed at reducing barriers to seeking care and increasing access to quality behavioral health services for these families. Together the three agencies offer a one stop location to learn about the resources that support our families.”

Students should also take note of SAMHSA’s report for other reasons. It’s important to know how hardships affect health since being on top of preventing and treating any health issues may make for more productive and successful learning.



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