The mental health and well-being of women in the UK Armed Forces

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The aims of the study were to a) estimate the prevalence of specific mental and physical health problems among female UK military personnel, b) examine their association with work, family, and interpersonal relationship stressors and protective factors, and c) explore stressors in these domains and their perceived relationship to health among serving and ex-serving women.
A mixed methods approach was used, integrating qualitative and quantitative approaches across several stages of the research. Quantitative data came from female participants (n=1185) who responded to a postal survey questionnaire as part of a cohort study of UK military personnel. This provided the sampling frame for the qualitative study, which included 41 in-depth interviews with purposefully selected participants.
While no statistical impact of deployment or parenthood on health was found overall, the interviews identified a far broader array of stressors, protective factors, and outcomes not measureable from the survey data. In particular, the importance of interpersonal factors on well-being and career intentions among women was emphasised. Sources of stress from three main domains were explored: deployment, parenthood, and integration.
The importance of including more gender-specific stressors and outcomes in understanding factors influencing women’s well-being and decisions to remain in the military was revealed. The study provides a solid basis on which to build future research, both qualitative and quantitative, to further expand and assess the generalisability of the current findings. Implications for policy interventions are discussed.
Date of Award2013
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorStephani Hatch (Supervisor) & Nicola Fear (Supervisor)

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