Adjusting to civilian life

La Trobe Rural Health School researchers have investigated the impact of meaningful activities on the health and psychosocial adjustment of those transitioning out of the military

Recent research led by Kylie Carra has found that participating in meaningful activities plays an important role in helping former military service members adjust to civilian life.

Kylie is a Lecturer in Occupational Therapy at the La Trobe Rural Health School and as part of her doctoral research, she has been investigating the influence of meaningful activities on the health and psychosocial adjustment of those transitioning out of the military.

“As of 2021, 496,300 Australians reported previous service with the Australian Defence Force,” says Kylie.

“More than 50% of former military service members find adjustment to civilian life is difficult, with higher rates of physical and mental health conditions, and issues with employment, housing, and relationships.”

However, prior to Kylie’s research, it was unclear if participating in meaningful activities had a positive influence on the health and wellbeing of former military service members.

“Our research found that participation in personally and socially meaningful activities - such as sport, social and community interaction, and voluntary work - supported health, construction of a positive civilian identity, and recovery from service-related traumatic events.”

“We also identified some key risk factors that would increase a person’s vulnerability to adjustment difficulties. These include being aged 30-49 years old, having a medical or involuntary discharge from the military, and a lower military rank.”

Arising from Kylie’s research, a number of recommendations have been made to help improve health and adjustment outcomes of former service members during and up to 10 years post transition.

“Our recommendations have been provided to health service providers and the Joint Transition Authority. These include ongoing assessment of those who have one or more of the risk factors for developing adjustment difficulties, and providing rehabilitation and transition support services that are trauma-informed to facilitate re-engagement in meaningful activities.”