October 7, 2019
Diana Stancy Correll | Army Times
A majority of Army spouses reported feeling stressed, overwhelmed or tired in the past year.
Such were the results of a new Rand Corp. study evaluating challenges Army spouses encounter, attitudes they have toward the Army and how spouses use resources available to them.
“When asked to indicate the issues they faced in the past year, Army spouses’ most frequently chosen issues were their own feelings of being stressed, overwhelmed, or tired, followed by their soldier’s feelings of being stressed, overwhelmed, or tired,” the report said.
The report was based on a survey completed by more than 8,500 Army spouses.
The survey broke down a total of nine categories that Army spouses could identify as problem domains: military practices and culture; work-life balance; household management; financial or legal problems; health care system problems; relationship problems; child well-being; their own well-being and their soldier’s well being.
Within those problem domains, respondents were faced with a total of 96 targeted issues and could select between 8 to 14 specific issues they had experienced in the past year.
According to the report, nearly 56 percent of spouses reported feeling stressed, overwhelmed or tired — an issue that fell into the personal well-being problem area. That number dropped slightly to 49.5 percent when taking into account their soldier’s stress levels.
The report also shed insight on which problem areas Army spouses identify as impacting them the most. If spouses’ specific issues spanned across a series of problem domains, they were subsequently asked to identify their top two problem domains that they believed were “most significant” for them.
Altogether, spouses pinpointed these areas as their top two problem domains: work life balance, and military practices and culture.
“When asked to prioritize the most-significant problems they faced in the past year, the top problem domains chosen by spouses were work-life balance, military practices and culture, and own well-being, with about 30 percent of spouses having difficulty balancing work and home life, and around one-quarter having difficulty with some aspect of military culture,” the report said.
Nearly 24 percent of Army spouses included their own well-being as one of their top two problem domains, and nearly 23 percent identified relationship problems among their top two problem domains.
Almost all Army spouses — 90 percent — who reported having issues said they did utilize resources available to them, and the report claimed most found that their needs were met. But 32 percent said they had unmet needs even after reaching out to available resources.
Although Army Family Readiness Groups are designed to work as a liaison between a command and families of the unit, and provide information on available family resources, only 15 percent of spouses reported reaching out to these groups.
Who do you ask for help?
In situations where resources were not used, respondents largely said they were uncertain who to reach out to for assistance. The report said this finding indicates that “potentially solvable problems could be persisting because of a lack of awareness of programs and services and how to access them.”
Distance also appeared to play a role in whether spouses took advantage of resources. Spouses who lived further from their soldier’s installation tended to have less knowledge about military resources and reported being less satisfied with military resources in comparison to Army spouses in closer proximity to their post.
Overall, 60 percent of spouses said that they would prefer postcard mailings to receive information about available resources. Other popular modes of communication included Facebook and email, according to the report.
As a result, the report recommended that the Army examine ways to enhance the influence and participation of Army Family Readiness Groups, and investigate how to better connect with spouses via postcards or email.
Likewise, the report suggested that available resources and services become equipped to point spouses in the right direction for assistance by implementing a “no wrong door policy.” This would mean a range of programs could provide insight as to what resources, including those in outside the programs, would target problems raised by spouses.
Altogether, approximately 5 percent of Army spouses responded that they had had no problems in the past year.