Veterans: Are they more or less resilient than the rest of us?

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series Veterans
Total Veteran Population by Period of Service

WHO ARE OUR U.S. VETERANS? Increasingly, our population of more than 22 million veterans served during the “Gulf War era.” This chart, from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is just one of many fascinating maps and charts that illustrate this big, diverse population. CLICK on this chart to visit a page with an interactive U.S. map. You can learn about Veterans in every one of the 50 states.

Tomorrow is Veterans Day, a day when the nation pauses to honor our military veterans. This year, it comes at a time when the president just announced that 1,500 more troops will be sent to Iraq, adding to the many thousands of veterans who already served there.

We know about the problems veterans face when they return home, so let’s start this five-part series with these questions: How resilient are veterans? Are they more or less resilient than non-veterans?

Gallup measures well-being and reports an interesting comparison of the well-being of civilians and discharged veterans, retired veterans, and active-duty service members.

BUT WAIT!—Before we look at the results, how would you answer these questions:

To what extent did you worry a lot yesterday?

Did you experience a lot of stress?

These are some of the items in Gallup’s Emotional Health Index, which includes self-reports of daily positive emotions and negative emotions.

We might expect that veterans would be more likely than civilians to report high levels of stress and worry, but that’s not the case, according to Gallup’s analysis. Civilians generally report higher levels of worry and stress than veterans do. This pattern is true for civilians and veterans who are younger (ages 18 to 44) and who are older (45 to 64).

Consider, for example, that 40% of civilians in the older group report a lot of daily stress. In the same age group, discharged veterans report less (36%), as do retired veterans (32%). Active-duty veterans experienced the lowest levels of daily stress, with about one-quarter (25%) saying they experienced a lot of stress.

We see similar patterns for levels of worry. A higher percentage of civilians say they worry a lot, compared to veterans or active-duty service members. In the younger group, retired veterans and active-duty service members report the lowest levels (20% in each category). Active-duty service members in the older group worried the least. Only 13% said that they worried a lot on a daily basis.

Many veterans suffer physical and emotional trauma. But, overall, veterans worry less and experience less stress than civilians do. How could this be so? A Gallup analyst who serviced two tours of duty in Iraq, put it this way: “What do I have to worry about back in the civilian world? A missed report, a client I failed to sign? The penalties for failure to perform in combat are far more severe. The military experience is defined by resilience. Your fellow troops are counting on you to perform under pressure at all times. Quitting is not an option.”

How much stress and worry do you experience on a daily basis?

If you’re a veteran, did military service enable you to put civilian life in perspective?

How will you observe Veterans Day tomorrow?

GET INVOLVED IN THE DISCUSSION! Add a comment below or use either the blue-“f” Facebook icons or the envelope-shaped email icons to share your thoughts with friends. You can also feel free to print copies of these thought-provoking columns and use them in a small group for discussion.

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  1. Phil Hutchens says

    There are many types of Veterans, there is 15 years of military service between Vietnam and the ‘1st’Gulf War don’t forget those who stood watch in readiness