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Table 4 Most frequently reported barriers reported in focus groups, with exemplar quotes

From: “Everything else comes first”: a mixed-methods analysis of barriers to health behaviors among military spouses

Behavior Barrier Quotation
Physical activity Exercising on post is inconvenient or uncomfortable
n = 16
I’m not going to take 20 min out of my day to drive up on post and then workout with a whole bunch of grunts. It’s just weird to me. You’re the only female and it feels kind of weird.
Parenting demands/ lack of childcare
n = 11
Being stationed here, it’s been very difficult for me to work out because I can’t go to a gym or can’t find any with childcare. And it wasn’t that way where we came from. And I’m very picky about who I leave her with, so I don’t have a lot of sitters in the area that I could use for that.
Gym is only viable workout option
n = 11
Sometimes I think we feel a lot of pressure that we have to go to the gym to be legitimately doing something for our health, and then it’s frustrating because we think okay, well I don’t have 2 h to go to the gym, so I’m just going to sit here.
Have to start over with every move
n = 7
Once you finally get in that rhythm, you move and finding a new gym and finding people to work out with and trying to get back into that rhythm, it can take awhile and sometimes it can take so long that your new rhythm is not exercising.
Lack of motivation
n = 7
I have no interest in exercising whatsoever. Zero. None. It just seems like something that would be such a pain to me, that I just have no desire to do it.
Diet Expensive to eat healthy foods
n = 11
It’s almost like, you should eat healthy but you can’t afford to. And I think that’s a huge thing for military wives, cause we don’t make a lot. We have a set amount for food each paycheck, so for us, we don’t eat as healthy as we should because we cannot afford it. It’s just so expensive.
Don’t like to cook for one
n = 9
It is definitely a struggle eating for one. I am not a cook to begin with so to be honest, during deployment, 50% of my meals were cereal. Because when I got hungry I wanted to eat. And I didn’t want to make something, and the amount of money it takes to make a full meal for one person is horrible.
Spouse/family want to eat junk
n = 8
If I want to eat something that’s better for me, my husband doesn’t like the same food that I do, so I forget what I want to eat cause I want to feed him. So I will make him lasagna even if I want to just have a salad.
Fast food is easier and more convenient
n = 8
It’s so much easier to go through the drive-thru and grab something on the way home, even if you have stuff to cook, you have the money, it’s just easier sometimes, because you don’t get home until 7 or 8 o’clock at night, and then you know you don’t want to cook a full meal.
Lack of knowledge about healthy foods
n = 5
I wonder with all the 18 and up wives, if they even know how to cook and prepare things for themselves. Who knows what they learned at home and went right into married life.
Social connection Too much effort to make plans or develop friendships
n = 11
It’s almost work to try to find friends when you are a military spouse. Cause not only do you move around so much, but you just differ in so many ways, because everyone has their different places, and everyone has different values or interests. So I would say it’s more work than anything.
Spouse groups are cliquey or catty
n = 10
The FRG can sometimes be a very…you know…not always a positive thing. A lot of people don’t join them on purpose because they can be really catty and gossipy.
Spouse’s rank affects social interactions
n = 7
You deal with way more stereotypes and being stigmatized. You know my husband’s enlisted, but I went to college…does anyone ever ask me about my experience? It’s just what is your husband, who is your husband… no I’m a person separate from him and would like to talk about what I do. It just always felt like first and foremost let’s just make sure we put the enlisted in their place.
Difficulty relating to others from different backgrounds
n = 7
When we moved in Texas, each neighborhood we went to people were really nice and welcoming, and then we got here, and we are on post, and it’s like nothing. I was like WOW. So I haven’t put myself out there, and it’s only been in the last 6 months or so where I have made an effort to go out there and meet people.
Difficulty relating to others with or without kids
n = 7
I would say it’s hard for me to make friends because I don’t have kids and I know that others do. Try being 34 and then trying to find another 34-year-old couple who doesn’t have kids. It’s very hard.
Stress management Feel insignificant/ not valued
n = 8
I think that’s also a hard part of being a military spouse is the Army is first, your husband is first, his career is first, and you come second. So saying ‘I am worth it’ to find and do stuff for you.
Reluctant to ask others for help
n = 6
You have to rely on strangers at one point, and when somebody is asking you if you need any help, you just need to stop saying no. Taking care of ourselves, you know if we don’t take care of ourselves, nobody else is going to get taken care of.
Deployment/ uncertainty about spouse’s well-being
n = 6
You keep yourself going going going so that you don’t think too much about whatever situation.
Overwhelmed by doing it all on her own
n = 5
I was literally [getting sick] and trying to give my son a bath at the same time. I know that’s terrible but I mean, it is stressful, and it is a lot of hard work, I think especially when you have kids, because you have to play both roles.
Uncertainty/ inability to plan
n = 5
Things are changing all the time. It’s so hard to plan your life, knowing in the back of your mind he might not actually be around to do it.