Poll: Veterans Feel Less Stress Than Civilians

July 2, 2014

Editor’s note: Charlie Mike is our blog on military and veterans issues.  From basic training to the VA, this is the place to share stories and engage on topics important to the men and women that have worn our nation’s uniforms.


Gallup is running a series of articles this week on what they call “the veteran experience in the United States.”  A piece posted yesterday reveals some interesting results about veterans, servicemembers, and stress.  In telephone interviews with veterans, active duty military personal, and non-veteran civilians, respondents were asked two questions: whether they felt stress and whether they felt worry “during a lot of the day yesterday.”

As it turns out, veterans and serving military members answered affirmatively less frequently than civilians.  (The full article with precise poll results can be found here.)

So are our perceptions of the emotional and psychological impacts of combat on those who experience it inaccurate?  In short, no.  Those impacts are real and extend well beyond susceptibility to stress and worry.  However, our military, our government, and our society are much more aware of and sympathetic about issues like PTSD.  There is virtually universal acceptance that military service in wartime can cause invisible wounds.  America has, in not so many words, told our servicemembers and veterans that their experiences might have left them “broken” (in an entirely non-judgmental sense) in some way, but that that’s okay, and that we deeply appreciate their sacrifices.  But according to these polling results, maybe military service also equips our men and women in uniform with a more effective toolkit with which to handle daily stresses.

So no, these results don’t mitigate the need for us to appreciate the impact of combat on veterans’ emotional and psychological well-being.  But they do offer an important reminder that a simple narrative, no matter how well-meaning and sympathetic, fails to capture the full range of effects of wartime service, not all of which are necessarily negative.


John Amble is the Managing Editor of War on the Rocks, a former U.S. Army officer, and a veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.


Photo credit: The U.S. Army