The Washington Post

Letters from home may help protect happily married soldiers from PTSD

Letters from home may help protect
soldiers who are happily married

THE QUESTION After returning from war zones, military personnel often exhibit symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. Might contact from home during their deployment help prevent PTSD?

THIS STUDY involved 193 male Army soldiers (average age, 29) who had returned in the past year from an overseas tour that averaged 11 months. All had been in combat; most had been stationed in Iraq. All of the soldiers were married, on average about six years. For soldiers who reported being highly satisfied with their marriage, frequent communication with their spouses while deployed was associated with fewer PTSD symptoms, especially when the communication involved letters and e-mails rather than phone calls, instant messages or video chats. However, for soldiers who were not so happily married, frequent communication with their spouses during deployment was linked to higher levels of PTSD. The study’s authors suggested that letters and e-mails between happily married spouses were beneficial because they were apt to be carefully crafted and supportive and could be read repeatedly. They added that communication between unhappy spouses probably had more negative content, leading to stress.

WHO MAY BE AFFECTED? Military personnel serving in combat. As many as 20 percent of the U.S. veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan develop PTSD, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

CAVEATS Data on communication between soldiers and their wives came from the soldiers’ responses to questionnaires and relied on their recollections. Female soldiers were not tested.

FIND THIS STUDY June issue of the Journal of Traumatic Stress.


Linda Searing

The research described in Quick Study comes from credible, peer-reviewed journals. Nonetheless, conclusive evidence about a treatment is rarely found in a single study. Anyone considering changing or beginning treatment of any kind should consult with a physician.



Success! Check your inbox for details. You might also like:

Please enter a valid email address

See all newsletters

Show Comments

Sign up for email updates from the "Confronting the Caliphate" series.

You have signed up for the "Confronting the Caliphate" series.

Thank you for signing up
You'll receive e-mail when new stories are published in this series.
Most Read



Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Your Three. Videos curated for you.
Play Videos
Sleep advice you won't find in baby books
In defense of dads
Scenes from Brazil's Carajás Railway
Play Videos
For good coffee, sniff, slurp and spit
How to keep your child safe in the water
How your online data can get hijacked
Play Videos
How to avoid harmful chemicals in school supplies
Full disclosure: 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, 1 ghoul
How much can one woman eat?
Play Videos
What you need to know about Legionnaires' disease
How to get organized for back to school
Pandas, from birth to milk to mom

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.