Degree Name

DrPH (Doctor of Public Health)


Public Health

Date of Award


Committee Chair or Co-Chairs

Deborah Slawson

Committee Members

Jodi Southerland, Stacey Williams


This study was conducted to identify gaps in existing knowledge regarding impacts of combat-related PTSD on the spouse and to gain an understanding of the lived experience of Appalachian Spouses of combat veterans with PTSD. A systematic literature review was conducted to identify research and findings on the impacts of combat-related PTSD on spouses of veterans and a qualitative study was conducted to gain an understanding of the lives of Appalachian spouses of combat veterans with PTSD.

The systematic review identified 16 qualitative studies conducted between 1988 and 2016 in five countries spanning five wars. Regardless of the country of study or the war, the spouses experienced problems dealing with the symptoms of PTSD, emotional distress, impacts to relationships and caregiver burden. The systematic literature review revealed limited information on minority or underserved populations.

Qualitative interview data from ten Appalachian spouses of combat veterans with PTSD were examined to gain an understanding of their lives. Data were obtained from semi-structured interviews. Findings indicate Appalachian Vietnam veteran spouses experience similar problems dealing with the veteran’s symptoms of PTSD, relationship problems, mental health problems and caregiver burden. The veterans in this study were not diagnosed with PTSD until later in life so they spent the majority of their life without knowledge or treatment for the illness. The women in this study expressed concerns that government and society have marginalized Vietnam veterans.

This research highlights the need for outreach and PTSD education for Vietnam veterans and their spouses. Future research is recommended to expand the body of knowledge on the impacts of PTSD on the spouse with particular attention to other cultures, minority and underserved populations.

Document Type

Dissertation - unrestricted


Copyright by the authors.