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Majority of veterans experience positive change in socioeconomic status after leaving the military

A new report, published today, explores how and why the lives of ex-Service personnel improve or worsen after leaving the Armed Forces. The report, from the King’s Centre for Military Health Research and funded by Forces in Mind Trust, explores positive and negative changes in socioeconomic status from military to civilian life, and how factors such as childhood adversity, mental health and wellbeing may affect the economic change they experience.

The researchers found that 55.6% had what was deemed as ‘positive’ trajectories in socioeconomic status from military to civilian career while 20.4% had ‘negative’ socioeconomic change. One of the key indicators of successful transition was found to be securing employment; 80.8% of respondents were employed at the time of the survey and just 3.8% were unemployed (the remainder being economically inactive). While not all ‘negative’ transitions were viewed as such by participants, with some choosing lower paid roles to spend more time volunteering or with family, some Service leavers did struggle with transition and the research found several factors that may contribute to negative socioeconomic change and financial difficulties after leaving service, such as childhood adversity. Ex-Service personnel who experienced ‘unplanned’ discharges were also less likely to experience positive change.

The report identified barriers to positive transitions such as a lack of preparation and initiative which impacted on the ability to adjust to the civilian life and workplace environment, and lack of effective financial management, housing arrangements, social support and personal relationships.

The researchers highlighted the importance of holistic preparation and support not only during the resettlement process and post-Service transition, but from the beginning of the Service career, as well as a need to improve communications around post-service support.

The study, which was led by Dr Howard Burdett, involved analysing three large comprehensive data sets alongside 32 interviews for more detailed insight.

Tom McBarnet, Chief Executive (Acting) of Forces in Mind Trust, said

“Taking three credible and important data sets, this study looks at positive and negative change in socioeconomic status among Service leavers, showing that more than twice as many experience the former. It also shares detailed insight into the demographic factors that contribute to this, which is particularly important and useful for us to understand. This report should have interest for all those concerned with ensuring that the Armed Forces Community is given every opportunity to make the best of their lives once they have left service.”

Dr Howard Burdett, Research Fellow at King’s Centre for Military Health Research, said

“This research shows that the majority experience positive socioeconomic change after leaving the UK military, but there is a minority who experience the opposite. Both the available data and the findings from interviews identify numerous potential causes for negative changes, and suggestions where improvements could be made to improve transition. However, interviews show that this is a complex and nuanced situation, with some choosing a less challenging career path after leaving.”

You can read the full report here.