Researchers Launch Study of Military Death Impact on Surviving Family
Since September 11, 2001, more than 16,000 active duty service members have died from various causes, with slightly more than one-third attributed to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. For every service member who dies, many family members, including adults and children, are impacted. Researchers from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USU) Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress (CSTS) have launched the five-year National Military Family Bereavement Study, to investigate the impact of military death on surviving family members, the largest scientific study of its kind.
Led by Stephen J. Cozza, MD, a professor of psychiatry and associate director of CSTS, the multi-disciplinary research team will study more than 3,000 survivors of deceased active duty service members to understand the grief and loss experiences, investigate the impact of community support and services on the bereaved, and understand how available resources impact resilience or vulnerability in surviving families. The study will also build on the growing evidence addressing the intersection of grief and trauma and how it affects a military family member’s bereavement process, and needs for support and assistance. Findings will help to provide a scientific basis to inform policies affecting survivor care.
“The death of a military service member is a life-changing event for the entire family,” says Cozza. “From the initial distress of notification to longer-term challenges, family members face difficult emotional and practical issues possibly related to distinctive characteristics of military death. Certain similarities between civilian and military bereavement exist, however, families impacted by a military death may possess unique risk and protective factors that affect their bereavement process and experience of loss. The study of bereavement in the civilian population is extensive; however, there is a lack of substantive empirical research on the impact of the death of a family member serving in the U.S. military. The need to study individual and family bereavement when a military service member dies is critical to understanding the grief and loss experiences of this unique survivor population.”
Cozza’s team will look at 3,000 adult survivors of active duty military members (including guard and reserve) who died on or after September 11, 2001, from any cause (including KIA, accident, illness, homicide, or suicide). “Survivors” include spouses/ex-spouses/adult partners, parents/step-parents/adoptive and custodial parents/in-loco parentis, siblings and children/step-children (including adult children over the age of 18). Of the 3,000 studied, the team will select a subset of 500 survivors for family interviews, which will include surviving children. More information can be found at the study’s website (/www.militarysurvivorstudy.org) where interested participants can also enroll in the study and complete an on-line questionnaire.
Survivors will complete questionnaires and participate in interviews and focus groups. They will also be asked for saliva samples which will be used to identify genes that might be associated with risk or resilience during the bereavement process.
— Source: Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences