Family Wellbeing Study Part 1
Families of current and ex-serving ADF members: Health and wellbeing
Galina Daraganova, Diana Smart, Helena Romaniuk
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:
- Daraganova, G., Smart, D., & Romaniuk, H. (2018). Family Wellbeing Study Part 1: Families of Current and Ex-Serving ADF Members: Health and Wellbeing. Canberra: Department of Defence and Department of Veterans’ Affairs.
- Muir S. (2018). Family Wellbeing Study Part 2: Military Family Approaches to Managing Transition to Civilian Life. Canberra: Department of Defence and Department of Veterans’ Affairs.
- Smart, D., Muir, S., & Daraganova, G. (2018). Family Wellbeing Study: Summary Report. Canberra: Department of Defence and Department of Veterans’ Affairs.
Part 1 – Families of Current and Ex-Serving ADF Members: Health and Wellbeing – was a quantitative study. It investigated the health and wellbeing of families of current serving and ex-serving ADF members who were either in full-time active ADF service in 2015 or had left between 2010 and 2014. Information was collected using structured online surveys, which examined the following five questions:
- What is the overall wellbeing of Australian military families?
- Do families of current serving and ex-serving ADF members differ in terms of their wellbeing?
- What is the effect of military service on families?
- What are the help-seeking needs of military families?
- Do ADF members’ service characteristics and personal functioning affect the wellbeing of families, after taking into account other salient factors?
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.
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.