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PLoS One. 2014 Dec 5;9(12):e114755. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0114755. eCollection 2014.

Spouses of military members' experiences and insights: qualitative analysis of responses to an open-ended question in a survey of health and wellbeing.

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The University of Queensland, School of Population Health, Centre for Australian Military and Veterans' Health, Queensland, Australia.



There are few studies on the experiences of spouses of military members, with most focused on adverse impacts of deployment. Responses to an open-ended question in a survey of spouses' health and wellbeing enabled access to perceptions and insights on a broad range of topics. The objective of this investigation was to examine how respondents used the open-ended question and what they discussed, in aim of informing support service agencies and spouses of military members.


Thematic analysis was conducted on responses to the open-ended question. Descriptive analysis was performed on the demographics, military member characteristics and self-reported health of respondents and non-respondents to the open-ended question.


Over a quarter (28.5%) of the 1,332 survey participants answered the open-ended question, with respondents having a significantly higher level of education than non-respondents. Respondents expressed negative and positive experiences and insights on military life, provided personal information, commented on the survey, and qualified their responses to closed-ended questions. Topics included 'inadequate support', 'deployment impacts', 'suggestions for supporting agencies', 'appraisal of experiences' and 'coping strategies'.


This investigation uncovered issues of importance to spouses of military members that were not included or identified in a quantitative study. The findings provide a platform from which to explore these issues further, particularly the impact of military life on the non-serving spouse's career. The findings also provide support agencies with evidence to strengthen their services and they give spouses an opportunity to reflect on their own and others' feelings and evaluations of military life.

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