Ex-military personnel’s experiences of loneliness and social isolation from discharge, through transition, to the present day

Suzanne Guthrie-Gower, Gemma Wilson-Menzfeld*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Abstract

Objectives: This study aimed to examine the unique factors of loneliness and social isolation within the ex-military population from discharge, through transition, to the present day. Design: A qualitative, Phenomenological approach was adopted.

Methods: In-depth semi-structured interviews were carried out with 11 participants who had all served in the British Armed Forces and represented all three military services (Royal Navy; Army; Royal Air Force). Reflexive Thematic Analysis was used to analyse the data.

Results: Three themes were generated - a sense of loss; difficulty in connecting in civilian life; and seeking out familiarity. The findings of this study were examined through the lenses of the Social Needs Approach and the Cognitive Discrepancy Model.

Conclusions: Individuals developed close bonds in the military through meaningful and prolonged contact, reducing feelings of loneliness and social isolation during their time in service. The sense of belonging was key to social connection, but transition out of the military severed existing relationships, and a lack of belonging hindered the development of relationships within the civilian community. This study has implications for service provision relating to ex-military personnel and future service leavers.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0269678
Number of pages17
JournalPLoS One
Volume17
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 6 Jun 2022

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