BACKGROUND: Because of the stigmatization of mental health in the military, military populations tend to focus less on supporting their mental health, despite Military service making individuals 5 times more likely to develop major depression, and 15 times more likely to develop PTSD than the general population. The purpose of this study is to evaluate the perception of mental health and help-seeking behaviors in military populations, and to ultimately use this data to create effective low-stigma intervention, decreasing negative symptoms of mental health.METHODS: 70 Veteran, Active Duty, and Military Reserve Members of the U.S. Military completed an anonymous online survey regarding mental health as measured by Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9) and General Anxiety Disorder-7 (GAD-7) and physical activity behaviors and preferences including the Godin Leisure-Time Physical Activity Questionnaire.RESULTS: Given the sample (45 Male, 22 Female, 3 non-binary or gender non-conforming), 10% scored within the “moderately active” and 80 % scored within the “active” category on the Godin scale. According to the questions regarding physical activity preference, the most popular activity that participants expressed interest in were jogging/ running (71%) and resistance training (RT) (70%), while the least popular activities were aerobic exercise at home (23%) and exercise videos (11%). Using the PHQ-9, it can be concluded that from this sample, 14% of individuals exhibited moderate to severe anxiety, while 22% of individuals exhibited moderate to severe depression. There is a negative correlation between strenuous physical activity and sleep-disturbance/anxiety (-.097 and -.023, respectively). The sample was highly physically active despite the prevalence of mental health issues. 90% of individuals agreed/strongly agreed to the statement “exercise has a positive impact on my mental health”, and 93% to the statement “I feel happier after I exercise.”CONCLUSIONS: Since most forms of mental health interventions are stigmatized, especially in military populations, it is important to focus on de-stigmatized interventions, such as exercise, to combat mental health issues. Based on the high preference for RT and its preliminary negative correlations to sleep disturbance and anxiety, future studies should combine group therapy/aerobic and RT intervention for Military Members to improve mental health.

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