Survey reveals tough year for Veterans with long-term health conditions

Veteran mental health has declined in the last 12 months, amid concerns about the cost of living, difficulty coping with news coverage of recent conflicts and experiences of loneliness.

85% of veterans living with long-term health conditions* say they struggle with their mental health every day, compared with 73% in 2021**, according to a recent survey by Help for Heroes.

This year’s stark results can explain the higher demand the Charity has been seeing for several initiatives it is currently delivering to help the Armed Forces community to live well in the current climate.

Help for Heroes reports that 82% of veteran respondents with long-term health conditions are worried about the cost of living, with 1 in 8 having used a food bank in the last 12 months.

51% say news coverage of recent conflicts in Ukraine and Afghanistan have had an impact on their mental health, with many experiencing anger, depression, low mood and sleep disruption. 35% say they have experienced guilt or shame in relation to news of recent conflicts and 10% reported misusing alcohol or substances as a result.

Veterans with long-term health conditions are at high risk of becoming isolated, adding to their mental health struggles, with 82% of respondents experiencing feelings of loneliness. 32% say they are often or always lonely, which rises to 54% for those living alone.

Help for Heroes’ annual Veterans and Families Survey aims to better understand the needs of the Armed Forces community living with health conditions to help shape its services now and in the future.

James Needham, Help for Heroes’ Interim CEO, said:

“For those veterans living with long-term health conditions, it’s not surprising recent external factors outside of their control have resulted in a worsening of mental health.   

“We can’t make those factors go away, but we will continue to support those in the Armed Forces community who ask for our help, so they can manage better day-to-day.” 

The Charity has been running a series of financial wellbeing courses with partner St James’s Place Wealth Management to offer the Armed Forces community the tools to help them manage their finances while navigating the high cost of living.

RAF Veteran Michelle Hopkins, 50, from Wickford in Essex, who suffers from Chronic Fatigue and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, has saved hundreds of pounds since taking Help for Heroes’ Financial Wellbeing course.

“I was brought up to be careful with money, so I’ve always been thrifty, but I used to just bury my head in the sand – everything was on direct debit so I didn’t have to deal with it,” said the Flight Operations Officer who was deployed to the Falklands, Iraq and Afghanistan as well as a two-year secondment to the Royal Navy on board the aircraft carrier, HMS Invincible.  

“One of the tips that helped me most was writing down all my outgoings and completing a finance spreadsheet so I could see all my finances in one place and it helped get my finances in order. We would get homework, such as looking at a debt sheet and that forced me to look at all the things I’d been avoiding.” 

Michelle, who served in the RAF for 16 years and now volunteers with local nature charities, said:

“My income is my military pension so I need my money to go as far as it can both now and into the future, and the course really brought that into focus. Now I’ve done things like combine my home and car insurance into one policy, so I have more left over.” 

Michelle has been a member of the Help for Heroes Choir for more than three years and has performed at Salisbury Cathedral, Downing Street and the Royal Albert Hall.

It was through the Choir that she found out about the free courses the Charity offers through its Recovery College, the first of its kind designed for veterans and their families. After seeing positive changes to her life through its sessions on how to get better sleep, she signed up for its financial wellbeing course. Other courses available include pain management, healthy eating, dealing with anxiety and overcoming anger.

Michelle added:

“Everything is more expensive now we’re in a cost-of-living crisis and now I’ve completed the finance course I feel like I’ve got a grip on what I have coming in and going out; it’s a good feeling to know I am in control.” 

The hope is that being better prepared financially will lower the risk of hitting crisis point, but should that happen, particularly for those trying to manage costs of vital medical equipment, veterans, serving personnel and their families can access an Immediate Needs grant to assist with energy bills and food costs. Since April 254 people have benefitted from this funding through Help for Heroes, with many more charities and organisations stepping up to offer similar schemes. More information on support is available via Help for Heroes website.

Teams in the community have also been working with local food banks to ensure that those within the Armed Forces community are able to feed their families.

The Charity’s Hidden Wounds service has taken on more clinicians to meet the demand for mental health support, so that everyone who needs help can be seen quicker.

A pilot scheme which aims to combat loneliness in the Armed Forces community has been running in Wales. It is hoped the scheme, which buddies socially isolated or lonely veterans with a volunteer veteran who has fully transitioned into civilian life and is a member of their local community, will soon be rolled out across other nations.

The needs of veterans with long-term health conditions are soaring across the UK and the Charity is reliant on public donations to continue supporting our Armed Forces community. Help for Heroes is urging the public to give a veteran the greatest gift this Christmas, by making a donation however small, that could help a veteran receive mental health support or attend an activity session to reduce isolation and loneliness. Please give a gift today and be a hero for our Heroes at

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By @Cobseo 54 years ago

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