Physical Activity, Stress, and Psychological Health among Military Wives
Palmer, Autumn B.
The United States military encompasses less than 1% of the population, but assumes the entire responsibility of protecting the country. The satisfaction of the military wife with the military lifestyle plays an integral role in service member recruitment, readiness, and retention rates. In addition, a military wife with a decreased quality of life could have negative implications for the military healthcare expenditures. Purposes: The first purpose of this study was to describe the physical activity, stress levels, and psychological health of military wives. A secondary purpose was to identify subgroups that exhibit low activity levels and higher stress levels. Finally, this study tested whether physical activity mediated or moderated the relationship between level of stress from military-specific stressors and psychological outcomes (depression, anxiety, marital satisfaction, and life satisfaction). Methods: Participants completed an online survey using Qualtrics Survey Software to assess demographic characteristics, physical activity (Godin Leisure-Time Exercise Questionnaire), stress (Percieved Stress Scale), depression (Patient Health Questionnaire-8), anxiety (Generalized Anxiety Disorder-7), marital satisfaction (Kansas Marital Satisfaction scale), and satisfaction with life (Satisfaction with Life scale). The survey link was distributed using snowball sampling via Facebook, blogs, military support groups, emails, and word or mouth. Participants had the option of entering a random drawing for one of ten ($10) gift cards to Wal-Mart. Results: Participants (N=249, M age= 33.9 ± 7.8 years) in this study were female spouses of active duty service members. Participants had an average total GLTEQ score of 42.66 ± 25.83 and an average moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) score of 33.89 ± 23.45. Participants had an average perceived stress score of 14.49 ± 6.67. A series of t-tests were used to identify subgroups that exhibit low levels of activity and high levels of stress. MVPA scores did not differ significantly based on employment status or for those who had children less than 5 years of age compared with those who did not have children under 5, Army wives versus wives of service members from other branches, or participants whose spouse had been in the service for at least 8 years when compared to those whose spouses had been in the military for less than 8 years. However, wives of officers had significantly higher MVPA scores than wives of enlisted service members (t=2.01, p<0.05). Perceived stress scores were not significantly correlated with employment status, Army wives compared with wives of other branches, or wives of officers versus wives of enlisted personnel. However, perceived stress scores were significantly higher for military wives with children under the age of 5 compared to participants without children under age 5 (t=-2.95, p=0.004). Perceived stress scores for wives whose husband had been in the military for at least 8 years were lower than the wives whose husband had not been in the military for at least 8 years, and this relationship approached statistical significance (t=-1.84, p=0.07). Finally, a series of linear and hierarchical regressions were used to note that physical activity did not mediate or moderate the relationship between military-specific stressors and psychological outcomes (depression, anxiety, marital satisfaction, and satisfaction with life). Conclusion: Participants in this study had relatively low perceived stress scores and adequate GLTEQ MVPA scores for health benefits. Wives of enlisted members had significantly lower MVPA scores when compared to wives of officers and mothers of young children under the age of 5 had higher perceived stress scores when compared to mothers of older children. The snowball sample resulted in more officers’ wives than enlisted wives participating in the survey. Physical activity did not mediate or moderate the relationship between level of stress from military specific stressors and psychological outcomes (depression, anxiety, satisfaction with life, and marital satisfaction). Future studies could use objective measures of physical activity to examine stress, physical activity, and psychological outcomes in a subgroup of military wives.
Palmer, Autumn B.. (January 0001). Physical Activity, Stress, and Psychological Health among Military Wives (Master's Thesis, East Carolina University). Retrieved from the Scholarship. (http://hdl.handle.net/10342/5077.)
Palmer, Autumn B.. Physical Activity, Stress, and Psychological Health among Military Wives. Master's Thesis. East Carolina University, January 0001. The Scholarship. http://hdl.handle.net/10342/5077. April 24, 2019.
Palmer, Autumn B., “Physical Activity, Stress, and Psychological Health among Military Wives” (Master's Thesis., East Carolina University, January 0001).
Palmer, Autumn B.. Physical Activity, Stress, and Psychological Health among Military Wives [Master's Thesis]. Greenville, NC: East Carolina University; January 0001.
East Carolina University