December 16, 2011

The Difficult Transition from Military to Civilian Life

27%

As the last U.S. combat troops head home from Iraq this month, some will face a difficult re-entry to civilian life. A Pew Research Center survey of 1,853 veterans found that 27% said readjusting to civilian life was “very” or “somewhat difficult.”

Military service is difficult, demanding and dangerous. But returning to civilian life also poses challenges for the men and women who have served in the armed forces, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey of 1,853 veterans. While more than seven-in-ten veterans (72%) report they had an easy time readjusting to civilian life, 27% say re-entry was difficult for them — a proportion that swells to 44% among veterans who served in the ten years since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Veterans who say they had an emotionally traumatic experience while serving or had suffered a serious service-related injury were significantly more likely to report problems with re-entry.

The lingering consequences of a suffering a psychological trauma are particularly striking: The likelihood of an easy re-entry drop from 82% — for those who did not experience a traumatic event — to 56% for those who did. This 26 percentage point decline is the largest change — positive or negative — recorded in the study.

In addition, those who served in a combat zone and or knew someone who was killed or injured face steeper odds of an easy re-entry. It is worth nothing that veterans who served in the post-9/11 period report more difficulties returning to civilian life than those who served in Vietnam or the Korean War/World War II era. Read More