COVID-19 has negatively impacted the mental health and well-being of both Canadians and the world as a whole, with Veterans, in particular, showing increased rates of depression, anxiety, and PTSD. Spouses and common-law partners often serve as primary caregivers and sources of support for Veterans, which may have a deleterious effect on mental health and increase risk of burnout. Pandemic related stressors may increase burden and further exacerbate distress; yet the effect of the pandemic on the mental health and well-being of Veterans’ spouses is currently unknown. This study explores the self-reported mental health and well-being of a group of spouses of Canadian Armed Forces Veterans and their adoption of new ways to access healthcare remotely (telehealth), using baseline data from an ongoing longitudinal survey.
Between July 2020 and February 2021, 365 spouses of Veterans completed an online survey regarding their general mental health, lifestyle changes, and experiences relating to the COVID-19 pandemic. Also completed were questions relating to their use of and satisfaction with health-care treatment services during the pandemic.
Reported rates of probable major depressive disorder (MDD), generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), alcohol use disorder (AUD), and PTSD were higher than the general public, with 50–61% believing their symptoms either directly related to or were made worse by the pandemic. Those reporting being exposed to COVID-19 were found to have significantly higher absolute scores on mental health measures than those reporting no exposure. Over 56% reported using telehealth during the pandemic, with over 70% stating they would continue its use post-pandemic.
This is the first Canadian study to examine the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic specifically on the mental health and well-being of Veterans’ spouses. Subjectively, the pandemic negatively affected the mental health of this group, however, the pre-pandemic rate for mental health issues in this population is unknown. These results have important implications pertaining to future avenues of research and clinical/programme development post-pandemic, particularly relating to the potential need for increased support for spouses of Veterans, both as individuals and in their role as supports for Veterans.