How Letters From Home Can Prevent Soldiers' PTSD


Being happily married is a good thing for anyone, but a new study finds that it may be particularly beneficial for male soldiers. The study, published in the Journal of Traumatic Stress, found that male soldiers deployed with the U.S. Army had lower post-traumatic stress (PTSD) symptoms if they were happily married and communicated frequently with their spouse through letters, care packages, and emails.

Key Findings:

  • Frequent spousal communication was beneficial for soldiers with high marital satisfaction, as shown by lower PTSD symptoms after deployment, but frequent communication was actually linked to more PTSD symptoms among soldiers who had lower marital satisfaction. It seems as though the social support provided by positive communication may be what is protective, something that may be lacking in communications between people who are not happily married.
  • These benefits were linked only to "delayed" communication, and did not hold for methods of communication that were more interactive. So while a letter or email seemed to help protect against PTSD, phone calls and instant messaging did not. Co-author Ben Loew, of the University of Denver, explains, ""We think that letters, which happened less often overall compared to phone calls, had stronger effects. When you receive letters, they can be read again and again, and when you write them, it can be therapeutic."

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