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MFLS Survey 2023: A Signal in the Field


Military member at home holding his son on his back while playing

Blue Star Families' annual Military Family Lifestyle Survey (MFLS) paints a comprehensive picture of military life. This year’s survey focuses closely on the financial strains military families face, including how it affects their mental health.


Forever Warriors is committed to improving the lives of our nation's active-duty, veteran, and military family members. The MFLS Survey and groups like Blue Star Families greatly aid in achieving that goal.


What does this survey show?

The 2023 MFLS Survey includes 9,363 veterans, active-duty military members, and their families. It details each active duty family's financial struggles and examines the unique issues they face every day.


When looking at challenges impacting military families, financial hardship and employment concerns are the most pressing. In fact, when respondents were asked to list the top challenges affecting active-duty families, every issue was financial or employment-related.


Military spouse employment was the top issue for most families, followed by the amount of time away from family as a result of military service. Dissatisfaction with military pay, off-base housing concerns, and relocation after service were also top concerns.


Active-duty families spoke of their emotional struggles with feeling included in their civilian communities, both for adults and for children of active-duty military. The survey revealed a significant desire for improved health care services. Most significantly, people worried about the high rates of suicidal thoughts and attempts due to military service.


Key themes and insights

The MFLS survey presents a crucial point about the ways active-duty families are impacted both financially and mentally, even after completing service. Nearly half of the participants reported military spouse employment as their top concern in the survey, making it the number one issue.


The second of the issues raised is the mental strain on active-duty families. About 45% of its participants said that the amount of time away from family as a result of military service caused the most mental stress. 16% of families said they wanted at least one of their children in grades K-12 to receive mental health care. Also, 52% of schools acknowledge the unique challenges military families face.


Nearly one-third of active-duty families reported a lack of financial comfort, particularly due to housing costs. This is a major finding because 81% of respondents reported monthly housing expenses not covered by their Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH).


Many active-duty troops struggle mentally as a result of their service. 20% of active-duty family members said they knew an adult friend or relative who had suicidal thoughts, attempted suicide, or died by suicide. Furthermore, nearly 1 in 4 active-duty family members do not receive mental health care but would like to.


These statistics show us that we could do so much more to support active-duty families. Without more government assistance and civilian support, military families face a ripple effect of challenges.


Comparison with previous surveys

For years, Blue Star Families has provided snapshots of currently serving and veteran families.

In a 2021 Pulse Check addressing military and veteran families’ financial needs, participants reported needing immediate financial assistance in more areas than in the year before.


Consumer debt was the biggest immediate financial hardship at 29–37%. Notably, housing is the number 1 immediate concern in the current MFLS survey. However, mortgage and rent rated lowest in the 2021 Pulse Check.


Still, the thing that causes the most stress for active-duty families as a whole is unemployment and underemployment. Despite COVID-19 increasing the 2021 Pulse Check employment issue, the current MFLS survey still lists this as the number one issue for active-duty families. And the same seems to be true for even earlier findings — in the 2018 MFLS survey, 69% of active-duty families agreed that having two incomes was "essential" to the well-being of their family.


What can you do?

Anyone who has served in the U.S. military should not have to struggle because of it.


Every one of us should take action to help those who fight for our country, and there are various ways to do so.


By fostering knowledge of issues unique to active-duty families, we can help destigmatize help-seeking behaviors like shame and embarrassment that plague nearly 1 in 3 active-duty families. We can address the special needs of active-duty, National Guard, and veteran families with more programs and communication outreach tactics.


According to the 2021 Blue Stars Pulse Check, 16% of active-duty members say a "want to avoid the chain-of-command" blocks them from seeking financial help. We can reduce and eliminate chain-of-command hurdles to increase military integrity.


The community military members join when they begin service lasts a lifetime. But their participation in civilian life and communities shouldn't end there.


As military members seek new opportunities for inclusion, Forever Warriors advocates for more substantial methods that help the transition and sustainment process. We see and want to help them comfortably reenter civilian life with compassionate empathy, support, and care.


Transition isn’t always simple, but with shared humility and respect from civilian community members, active-duty and veteran families can find lasting sense of belonging.


Forever Warriors also advocates for being active in your military community. We can’t do it alone. The unique challenges faced by military families as discussed above can be heavy to bear alone. However, being part of a military community provides access to resources such as counseling services, support groups, and networking opportunities. Additionally, the shared experiences and understanding among military families and service members can help build a sense of camaraderie and reduce feelings of isolation. Forever Warriors helps bridge the gap between you and these resources.


Conclusion

Active-duty families face distinct demands and hurdles due to aspects of military life like chronic military spouse unemployment and underemployment, financial strain due to housing, and increased mental and emotional distress linked to a lack of belonging in civilian life.


In-depth research like the MFLS highlights crucial challenges facing active-duty families and veterans. With this new data, we can identify meaningful ways to support the brave men and women who serve our country and their families.


Forever Warriors is very dedicated to ensuring that no military family ever feels isolated in their challenges. We provide full support through recognizing and promoting a variety of events that are held by respected organizations and missions across the country.


In order to give military families the much-needed support and solidarity they deserve, our efforts are focused on fostering a strong sense of mutual respect and community around them.


Check out our resources and events section to learn more about upcoming events around us! If you want more information regarding the survey and the amazing release event around it, click here.



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