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Military couples "often" lonely, survey finds

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

A new study by the Cohen Veterans Network finds that military couples often battle loneliness on the home front.

The Cohen Veterans Network (CVN), a national nonprofit network of mental health clinics for post-9/11 veterans, active-duty service members and their families, released the findings from “America’s Mental Health Loneliness Survey: Military Perspectives” this week.

Over a quarter of military couples surveyed “often” feel lonely, while half feel lonely “some of the time.”

The demands of military life include frequent deployments, extended periods of time away from loved ones, and pressure to adapt to new environments. The unique challenges and stresses of military service can also make it difficult for service members and their families to connect with others who may not understand their lifestyle.

Dr. Anthony Hassan, CEO of the Cohen Veterans Network, said that the military-civil divide affects families living both on and off base.

“Many military families live in civilian communities where no one really knows what their life experiences are. That can intensify these feelings of loneliness and isolation,” he explained. “When I was stationed in Okinawa, there were families that never left the base in their three-to-four-year tour. In South Korea, I heard the same thing — that half of the families on the base never go off post.”

The Department of Veterans Affairs is now offering couples retreats to help former service members communicate with their spouses through PTSD and other…

The survey found that the top factors contributing to loneliness were time away from spouses and partners, difficulty making new connections, and no close friends or family living nearby.

“When you're feeling lonely and disconnected, you tend to ruminate,” said Hassan. “Like ‘I'm no good,’ ‘I have no friends,’ ‘I have nowhere to turn.’ That turns into negative self-talk, which eventually turns into depression.”

Military families can build closeness by being intentional about staying in touch, minding self-talk, and focusing on quality connections, Hassan points out. CVN clinics across the country are hosting in-person and virtual events to help military couples fight loneliness and improve communication.

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Carson Frame was Texas Public Radio's military and veterans' issues reporter from July 2017 until March 2024.