Family Wellbeing Study

Summary report

Content type
Commissioned report

October 2018


Diana Smart, Stewart Muir, Galina Daraganova

Commissioning Body

Department of Defence and Department of Veterans’ Affairs


The Family Wellbeing Study examined the wellbeing of families of ADF members, transitioned ADF members and reservists. Overall, it paints a positive picture of both serving and ex-serving military families, with most ex-serving families coping well with the transition to civilian life. Findings suggest that Australian military families are resilient and coping well with the pressures of a military family lifestyle.

Generally, the families of serving and ex-serving ADF members presented similarly to comparable general Australian populations. Rates of mental health problems were similarly low; risk-taking behaviours were not more common; and couple relationships were typically healthy and strong. However spouses/partners of ex-serving ADF members tended to be less positive about their relationship than spouses/partners of current serving ADF members.

About the Family Wellbeing Study

The Family Wellbeing Study was commissioned by the Australian Government Department of Defence and Department of Veterans’ Affairs. The study examined the wellbeing of families of ADF members, transitioned ADF members and reservists. Its aim is to improve services for ADF families by informing effective prevention and early intervention programs, both while the ADF member is serving and after they join civilian life.

The study was part of the Transition and Wellbeing Research Programme, the largest and most comprehensive programme of studies undertaken in Australia to examine the impact of military service on the mental, physical and social health of serving and ex-serving ADF members and their families.

The study produced three reports:

The Family Wellbeing Study provided important new information about how Australian military families are faring. It yielded many valuable insights about their physical, psychological, social and material wellbeing. While the study yielded a generally positive picture, it also identified that families of current and ex-serving ADF members did face challenges, and may benefit from targeted support and assistance.

Key messages

  • Couple relationships were typically healthy and strong.

  • Risk taking behaviours, such as problem drinking, illicit drug use and gambling were no more common than in comparable Australian populations.

  • The majority of spouses/partners were in employment, with rates similar to the general Australian population of a similar age and sex.

  • Relatively few families experienced financial hardships, although the rate was slightly higher than in Australian general community studies.

  • Families had experienced considerably more residential and school relocations than the general Australian population.

  • Half of spouses/partners felt that military service had negatively affected their employment and careers, although their actual rate of employment was reasonably high and similar to the general population.

  • A higher percentage of dependent children aged 2 to 17 years in families of current serving ADF members showed higher levels of emotional problems, peer problems or hyperactivity than would be expected normatively.

  • Mental health problems of spouses/partners more frequent than in the comparable general Australian population.

  • There was an expressed desire for more individualised transition preparation. The families of ex-serving members with complex needs indicated a particular desire for personalised transition case management or case coordination.