The Effects of Military Deployment on a Spouse

by Melody Causewell

    Being away from a spouse can be difficult. Having a spouse deployed militarily to another country may be even more distressing, particularly during wartime. Understanding the issues that may arise for the spouses of deployed military personnel may help both partners to anticipate concerns and intervene appropriately to lessen the negative effects of deployment.

    Spousal deployment may cause psychological issues, according to University of Warwick research published in the "International Review of Psychiatry" in 2011. In this review of 14 other United States-based studies, researchers found that partners of deployed military personnel suffer from social dysfunction and psychological issues such as anxiety and depression. The researchers in this case also found that longer deployments and psychological trauma in the deployed partner predicted increases in psychological issues for the at-home spouse. Spouses of military personnel should be aware of these risks and take steps to increase their social support networks to lessen these effects.

    Military deployments may have negative health effects on at home spouses, according to research conducted through Uniformed Services University and published in "Military Medicine" in 2011. In this study, researchers found that higher levels of stress in at-home spouses of deployed military personnel were associated with decreased exercise and social behaviors along with fewer stress management activities, such as resting. They also found that the deployment itself led to poorer diets and less stress management in the at-home spouse. These factors should be taken into consideration by couples to ensure that partners of military personnel are taking good physical care of themselves while their spouses are away.

    Deployment may cause severe psychological upheaval for partners of deployed military personnel, according to University of Oshkosh research published in the academic journal "ISRN Nursing" in 2012. In this study, researcher Suzanne Marnocha noted that spouses of deployed military personnel may experience many negative emotional effects, including anxiety, depression, loneliness, despair, guilt, low self-esteem, detachment, anger, fear for their partners' safety, intolerance for their children and even suicidal ideations. Marnocha also found that the reunion phase after deployments may be even more stressful, leading to resentment, lack of sexual intimacy and emotional responses similar to those unearthed during the deployment phase. Couples should be aware that deployments -- and the transitions before and after they occur -- may create a great deal of psychological issues. Getting therapeutic assistance during and after deployments may be beneficial to spouses of military members to lessen the extent of these emotional responses.

    Deployment -- or planning for a deployment -- can increase depression in pregnant spouses of military personnel, according to Washington-based research published in "Obstetrics and Gynecology" in 2010. In this study, researchers found that the deployment status of a spouse had a significant effect on the depression levels of women both during pregnancy and in the postpartum period. Additionally, they found that merely having a deployment planned in the near future doubled the rate of depression in pregnant women. Spouses of military personnel who must face deployment should consider these issues when planning families and seek additional help during these vulnerable times.

    About the Author

    Melody Causewell has been a writer in the mental health field since 2001. She written training manuals and clinical programs for mental health organizations. She has published feature articles "Leaven" magazine and has been published in "Natural Awakenings." She has a degree in psychology, a Masters degree in social work and is a La Leche League leader.

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