Perceived barriers to mental healthcare among spouses of military service members

Psychol Serv. 2022 May;19(2):396-405. doi: 10.1037/ser0000523. Epub 2021 Apr 15.


Barriers to mental healthcare services are reported among military service members. However, little is known about these barriers among the spouses of military personnel, who face unique stressors and may subsequently be at high-need for mental health services. Understanding barriers to care among this vulnerable population may help improve access to psychological services. The current study utilized data from the Millennium Cohort Family Study. Participants were referred by their military spouses or through targeted mailers. Participants completed self-report measures of mood, psychosocial functioning, and perceived barriers to mental healthcare via web- or paper-based surveys. A factor analysis was conducted to identify subscales of the barriers to mental healthcare measure, and logistic regressions were conducted adjusting for relevant sociodemographic variables, to determine psychosocial factors associated with likelihood of reporting barriers to mental healthcare. The sample comprised 9,666 military spouses (86% female; Mage: 27.73 ± 5.09; 29.2% racial/ethnic minority; 19.5% with prior/current military service). Logistic factors were the most frequently reported barrier to care (63%), followed by negative beliefs about mental healthcare (52%), fear of social/occupational consequences (35%), and internalized stigma (32%). Spouses with prior or current military service themselves and individuals with a psychiatric condition were most likely to report barriers to mental healthcare. A preponderance of military spouses reported barriers to mental healthcare services. Prospective data are needed to elucidate the associations between barriers to care and mental healthcare utilization. Efforts may be warranted to improve access to mental healthcare among the spouses of military personnel. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2022 APA, all rights reserved).

MeSH terms

  • Ethnicity
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Health Services*
  • Military Personnel* / psychology
  • Minority Groups
  • Prospective Studies
  • Spouses / psychology