Measuring the wellbeing of members of Blind Veterans UK

Working in collaboration with Anglia Ruskin University’s Veterans and Families Institute for Military Social Research (VFI), Boston University School of Medicine, and Veteran Affairs Boston Centre, this pilot study was the first to use the Wellbeing Inventory (WBI) to explore holistic wellbeing in British blind veterans. This preliminary investigation of wellbeing suggests that our members generally function well and are satisfied across a range of different areas of life.

When we talk about wellbeing, we talk about the extent to which a person feels healthy, happy, and comfortable. Our satisfaction, and how well we are doing in different areas of our life, all impact on our overall wellbeing.

Existing research shows that visual impairment and being a veteran can affect various aspects of a person’s life. It’s vital that we understand the wellbeing of blind veterans in order to ensure that the support provided meets their needs.

What did we do?

Between November 2019 and March 2020, the Blind Veterans UK Social & Welfare research team and collaborators ran a pilot study using a survey originally developed with US veterans to assess wellbeing. The pilot was run to test the feasibility of the survey for use with British blind veterans, and to get a preliminary overview of wellbeing among our members.

Blind veterans completed the survey online, over the phone, or face-to-face with a member of the Social & Welfare research team. The survey, called the Wellbeing Inventory (WBI), assesses:

  • Status (objective life circumstances such as whether a person is employed or married)
  • Functioning (how well they are doing)
  • Satisfaction (a subjective assessment of how well things are going)

These are assessed in four key areas of life:

  • Vocation (work/education)
  • Health
  • Finances
  • Social relationships (intimate relationships, parenting and wider social relationships).

The survey is useful in enabling the identification of areas of strength and possible vulnerability in respondents’ lives.

What did we find?

You can view our full peer reviewed publication of findings here and the full infographic summary here.

The preliminary findings suggest that the blind veterans who took part in this pilot study generally functioned well and were satisfied across most areas of their life. Satisfaction with their relationships with spouses or partners, and functioning and satisfaction with volunteering roles among those who volunteered, were identified as areas of strength.

Areas of possible vulnerability were financial functioning and satisfaction with their health. This may reflect the large number of veterans who reported having ongoing health conditions in addition to their visual impairment. Encouragingly, the majority reported doing their best to look after their health by regularly engaging in health-promoting behaviours such as eating a healthy diet, and largely avoiding risky health behaviours such as excessive drinking or smoking.

Who completed the survey?

  • 97 veterans took part
  • 94% were male
  • 56% were aged 80+

History of sight loss

  • Age-related conditions were the leading cause of sight loss for 51%
  • The average time since diagnosis was 12.3 years

Select graphic to enlarge

Vocation

  • 8% were paid in employment
  • 39% were doing unpaid work (e.g. volunteering or caring)
  • 90% functioned well in their paid/unpaid work
  • 80% were satisfied with their paid/unpaid work

Select graphic to enlarge

Health

  • 21% had a chronic mental health condition
  • 80% had a chronic psychical health condition in addition to their VI
  • 90% had a high level of health functioning
  • 55% were satisfied with their health

Select graphic to enlarge

Finance

  • 55% were financially secure
  • 34% were financially at risk
  • 12% were financially problematic

Total is more than 100% due to rounding.

  • 40% functioned well financially
  • 83% were satisfied with their financial circumstances

Select graphic to enlarge

Social relationships

  • 56% were in a relationship with a partner or spouse
  • 76% functioned well in their intimate relationship 
  • 91% were satisfied with their intimate relationship
  • 85% had regular contact with friends/family and their community
  • 64% functioned well in their social network
  • 85% were satisfied with their social network

Select infographic to enlarge

What’s next?

The findings from this pilot study provide a preliminary overview of wellbeing among a small sample of blind veterans. Results of the study are available to Blind Veterans UK staff, blind veterans, and the public through online publication.

The Social & Welfare research team is building on the learnings from this pilot study and the feedback received from our participants to explore wellbeing within the wider blind veteran and visually impaired communities.

The aim of our wellbeing research is to ensure that the support provided to blind veterans addresses their wellbeing needs.