The military spouse experience of living alongside their serving/veteran partner with a mental health issue: A systematic review and narrative synthesis

Emma Senior*, Amanda Clarke, Gemma Wilson-Menzfeld

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
32 Downloads (Pure)



Military healthcare studies have reported a wide range of mental health issues amongst military personnel. Globally, mental health issues are one of the main causes of ill health. Military personnel have a greater prevalence of mental health issues than that of the general population. The impact of mental health issues can be wide and far reaching for family and carers. This systematic narrative review explores the military spouse experience of living alongside their serving or veteran partner with a mental health issue.


The systematic review performed was based on the PRISMA guide for searching, screening, selecting papers for data extraction and evaluation. Studies were identified from CINHAL, ASSIA, Proquest Psychology, Proquest Nursing & Allied Health source, Proquest Dissertations & Theses, ETHOS, PsychArticles, Hospital collection, Medline, Science Direct Freedom Collection and hand searching of citations and reference lists.


Twenty-seven studies were included in the narrative synthesis. Five overarching themes from the experiences of military spouses’ living alongside their serving/veteran partners mental health issue were identified: caregiver burden, intimate relationships, psychological/psychosocial effects on the spouse, mental health service provision and spouse’s knowledge and management of symptoms.


The systematic review and narrative synthesis identified that the majority of studies focused on spouses of veterans, very few were specific to serving military personnel, but similarities were noted. Findings suggest that care burden and a negative impact on the intimate relationship is evident, therefore highlight a need to support and protect the military spouse and their serving partner. Likewise, there is a need for greater knowledge, access and inclusion of the military spouse, in the care and treatment provision of their serving partner’s mental health issue.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0285714
Number of pages25
JournalPLoS One
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 18 May 2023

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