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Military Spouses’ Needs, Hardships Are Focus of New Initiative

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Group Photo
Peer leaders gather during a Veteran Spouse Resiliency Group leader training. Photo Credit: Montinique Monroe.

AUSTIN, Texas — With more than 700,000 spouses of active-duty military personnel in the United States, the Institute for Military and Veteran Family Wellness at The University of Texas at Austin is launching a new research initiative focused on supporting military spouses.

The research will adapt and test an existing curriculum-based peer support group model called the Military Spouse Resiliency Group Program. The program trains military spouses to become peer leaders who facilitate supportive discussions with other active-duty spouses and connects participants to local and national support resources.

“What we glean from this research will allow us to determine whether and how much group-based peer support led by trained, peer military spouse leaders provides significant improvements to spouses’ sense of social and community support, self-care practices, mental health and quality of life,” said study principal investigator Elisa Borah, director of the institute and research associate professor at the Steve Hicks School of Social Work.

For active-duty military spouses, the range of stressors in their lives as part of their partners’ military service can be tremendous. A recent study indicated that nearly 24% of active-duty family members say that “military family quality of life” is a top concern, pointing to instability and inconsistency of daily life as the key reason. Spending enough time with children and family, the frequency and difficulty of relocating, and limited communication from the military command are common issues cited.

Initial results from the current study show that participants experience improvements in quality of life, depression and anxiety, self-care behaviors and perceived social support.

“The ultimate goal is to improve spouses’ sense of social and community support, self-care practices, mental health and quality of life,” Borah said. “The unpredictability of military life can lead numerous obstacles that impact nearly every aspect of daily life.”

The work is supported by a $1.4 million award from the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program and is a joint effort of Dell Medical School’s Department of Health Social Work and the Steve Hicks School of Social Work. The study will begin recruiting Army spouse participants at Fort Hood, Texas, with the goal to support 150 spouses.