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By Sara Croymans

Military spouses play a critical role in family readiness. They are often the organizers, the doers, the caregivers, and the ‘glue’ that holds military families together and contributes to their family’s health and well-being. It is only right that we pause to provide special recognition to these amazing people during May, Military Spouse Appreciation Month.

Who Are Today’s Military Spouses?

The 2020 Demographics Profile of the Military Community provides a picture of who these spouses are. Across the total DoD Force (all branches, active duty, and reserve component), there are 950,879 spouses. The average age of military spouses is 33.8, with about two-thirds being 35 years of age or younger. The majority of military spouses are female (88.6%) and 11.4% male. 

The Military Spouse at a Glance infographic highlights statistics of active duty spouses from the 2021 DoD Survey of Active Duty Spouses. These active-duty spouses are 87% female and 13% male, with 14% of spouses in dual-service families. The majority of spouses live off installation (76%), and over two-thirds (69%) have children under 18 living at home, part-time or full-time. 

What Military Spouses Say about Military Life

The report for the 2021 DoD Active Duty Spouse Survey was recently released in February 2023. The survey asked active duty military spouses for input on experiences with military life and key topics like employment, finances, and deployment. In addition, a supplemental survey invited active-duty spouses to provide their feedback on issues, challenges, and concerns. Select key findings from the survey include: 

  • Child Care/COVID-19 
    • The most common form of child care was civilian child care with no military fee assistance 
    • Just over half of spouses reported being unable to access regular child care due to the pandemic
    • 3 in 4 spouses received a COVID-19 vaccine 
  • Spouse Employment (Civilian) 
    • 64% of spouses were in the labor force
    • 21% of spouses were unemployed; statistically, this has not changed since 2015
    • 62% of spouses were employed in an area of education or training
  • Food Security/Financial Situation 
    • 75% of spouses reported being food secure, while 24% said they were not
    • 58 was the average financial well-being score of active duty spouses (55 was the 2020 U.S. average score) 
  • PCS Moves/Living Arrangements
    • The top problem for spouses related to PCS: Finding employment
    • The top problem for children related to PCS is: Availability of childcare
    • 7% of spouses were Geo-baching at the time of the survey (Geo-baching is the voluntary separation of residences among service members and their families who are together but living apart, resulting in the member “geo-baching” or living temporarily as a geographic bachelor or bachelorette.)
  • Deployment
    • 45% of member spouses deployed in the past 36 months
    • Most frequently noted changes in spouse after deployment: Appreciate friends and family more and experience trouble sleeping
  • Well-Being 
    • 8 in 10 spouses reported being satisfied with their marriages
    • 44% of spouses reported having used counseling during their spouse’s active duty career
  • Satisfaction/Retention 
    • Across all services and pay grades, except for senior officers, the percentage of spouses satisfied with the military way of life was significantly lower in 2021 than in previous survey years back to 2012 (49% reported being satisfied, 22% dissatisfied, and 29% neither satisfied nor dissatisfied)
    • Fewer spouses reported favoring their service member spouse to stay on active duty in 2021

Call to Action

  • Learn more about military spouses. Spend time reading the 2021 DoD Active Duty Spouse Survey and the Spouse Voices webpage for more information on the key issues identified and related resources. 
  • Engage with the military spouses in your community. Have conversations with spouses in your area to learn about their specific joys, needs, and concerns. 
  • Visit the DoD’s Spotlight: Military Spouse Appreciation web page, which provides stories about military spouses, as well as links to resources to help spouses with education, career opportunities, relocations, and transitions. 
  • Thank the military spouses you work with. Acknowledge their contributions to family readiness and national security. Ideas might include:  
    • Write a personal note of appreciation
    • Feature a military spouse(s) in your newsletter, social media, local newspaper, radio program, etc. 
    • Host an appreciation event during May, Military Spouse Appreciation Month, or on May 12 – National Military Spouse Appreciation Day, which is observed each year on the Friday before Mother’s Day.
  • Encourage the spouses you work with to seek out available resources, including: 

Writers Biography

Sara Croymans, MEd, AFC, University of Minnesota Extension Educator, member of the OneOp Family Transitions team, military spouse, and mother.




Photo source: IStock