How military Veterans see the transition to civilian life

Successfully transitioning into civilian life is an essential step for military Veterans, and has important implications for their health and well-being. Partnering with Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC), the Department of National Defence/Canadian Armed Forces, and Statistics Canada, Dr. Kelly Schwartz has been investigating how Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) Veterans have seen their transition from military to civilian life for over 6 years.

The 2016 Life After Service Studies (LASS) survey was the third iteration of the survey, which also ran in 2010 and 2013. The LASS survey is used to develop a demographic profile of CAF Veterans and their families. These profiles help to illuminate strengths, challenges, and other areas of interest which might be explored by researchers and service-providers.

Surveying Families

The 2016 survey was conducted by Statistics Canada interviewers, via telephone interview. Personnel from the Regular CAF who were released from services between 1998 and 2015 were selected for participation. The survey covered a range of topics, including: daily living, adjustment to civilian life, health and mental health conditions, and life satisfaction.

The survey was completed by 2,789 Veterans, 88% of whom were male. The mean age of the Veterans at the time of the survey was 48, and the mean age of release was 40. The average length of service was 18 years, and 8 out of 10 participants reported having been deployed during that time. Highlights from the data included:

Health

  • Around 1 in 4 (27%) Veterans rated their physical health to be in the “fair or poor” range, and 73% indicated that they had a physical health condition
  • Almost 1 in 4 (23%) rated their mental health in the “fair or poor” range, 29% reported they had a mental health condition

Family Type

  • 13% of the Veterans are living alone (VA)
  • 50% live with a spouse or partner (VP)
  • 27% live with a partner/spouse and children under the age of 18 (VC)
  • 10% live with extended family (VE)

Military-to-Civilian (MTC) Adjustment

  • The MTC adjustment was rated most positively by those living with their spouse/partner (VP), while those living alone (VA) rated it the adjustment as either moderately or very difficult
  • Almost 1 in 3 of (VP) Veterans rated the MTC as moderately or very difficult for their spouse/partner, and almost 1 in 4 Veterans with children (VC) rated the MTC as moderately or very difficult for their spouse/partner and children.

Satisfaction

  • Life satisfaction was highest for those living with their spouse (VP) – e.g. choosing “very satisfied”
  • Veterans living alone reported the lowest levels of satisfaction – e.g. selecting “very dissatisfied”

Moving Forward

In addition to these categories, information on ‘activity since release,’ ‘education and finances,’ and ‘satisfaction with family and social support’ were also collected and analyzed in the survey.The current results underscore the importance of the programs available for Veterans’ families.

Understanding the role and impact of these services, and other strategies to support these families, are essential to helping them thrive.


See more from Dr. Kelly Schwartz on his profile


Connected Citations

Schwartz, K. (in-press). Qualitative Study on the Health and Well-being of Families of Canadian Armed Forces Veterans with Mental Health Problems.