SOCIAL FACTORS CONTRIBUTING TO U.S. MILITARY SERVICE-MEMBER WELL-BEING
Cacace, Samantha Catherine
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The U.S. military has one of the highest suicide rates between its current members and veterans of any domestic occupation at an average of 22 suicides per day. The high toll that combat operations and military life have on its members attract attention in the form of PTSD research, substance and alcohol abuse prevention, and interventions for veterans with traumatic brain injury. However, little research has addressed psychosocial preventative factors than can reduce the negative effects of military service. Social support and unit cohesion have strong evidence toward reducing the severity of mental illness in the civilian and military populations. Additionally, military identity is a potentially powerful indicator of the degree to which one aligns with the military, and those with a strong military identity may face greater difficulty once they leave and those social support sources are no longer present. The current research project seeks to address how social support, unit cohesion, and military identity can increase well-being. Based off pilot data with university campus ROTC students and veterans, I propose that social support, unit cohesion, and military identity have buffering effects against negative outcomes in U.S. military personnel. The following project extends investigations from the pilot study, validates measurements of military identity and social support in a military-affiliated population, and discusses implications for future research and interventions.