Prevalence of psychiatric morbidity in United States military spouses: The Millennium Cohort Family Study

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Abstract

Background: Approximately half of US service members are married, equating to 1.1 million military spouses, yet the prevalence of psychiatric morbidity among military spouses remains understudied. We assessed the prevalence and correlates of eight mental health conditions in spouses of service members with 2–5 years of service. Method: We employed baseline data from the Millennium Cohort Family Study, a 21-year longitudinal survey following 9,872 military-affiliated married couples representing all US service branches and active duty, Reserve, and National Guard components. Couples were surveyed between 2011 and 2013, a period of high military operational activity associated with Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. Primary outcomes included depression, anxiety, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), panic, alcohol misuse, insomnia, somatization, and binge eating, all assessed with validated self-report questionnaires. Results: A total of 35.90% of military spouses met criteria for at least one psychiatric condition. The most commonly endorsed conditions were moderate-to-severe somatization symptoms (17.63%) and moderate-to-severe insomnia (15.65%). PTSD, anxiety, depression, panic, alcohol misuse, and binge eating were endorsed by 9.20%, 6.65%, 6.05%, 7.07%, 8.16%, and 5.23% of spouses, respectively. Having a partner who deployed with combat resulted in higher prevalence of anxiety, insomnia, and somatization. Spouses had lower prevalence of PTSD, alcohol misuse, and insomnia but higher rates of panic and binge eating than service members. Both members of a couple rarely endorsed having the same psychiatric problem. Conclusions: One third of junior military spouses screened positive for one or more psychiatric conditions, underscoring the need for high-quality prevention and treatment services.

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Steenkamp, M. M., Corry, N. H., Qian, M., Li, M., McMaster, H. S., Fairbank, J. A., … Marmar, C. R. (2018). Prevalence of psychiatric morbidity in United States military spouses: The Millennium Cohort Family Study. Depression and Anxiety, 35(9), 815–829. https://doi.org/10.1002/da.22768

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