Satisfaction with Compulsory Military Service in the Estonian Defense Forces and Determining Factors


  • Eteri Demus




conscription, life satisfaction, subjective well-being, socialization, collective identity


The aim of this study is to explore how conscripts themselves evaluate different aspects of Estonian military service and how these, together with their socio-demogra phic characteristics, could affect their personal life satisfaction through the compulsory military service. The data was gathered by the Estonian National Defence College. The data was analysed using various statistical analysis methods (descriptive statistics and regression). Based on the results of the analysis, it was found that the life satisfaction of conscripts changed significantly during their military service, being the highest at the start of the service before any military influence. The lowest life satisfaction was after the Soldier’s Basic Course which is rather expected because many previous studies describe this period as a cultural shock for conscripts. Life satisfaction was higher again at the end of the military service when more socialization and stronger relations among conscripts could have led to the emergence of a collective identity. Satisfaction with the different aspects of military service came out to be one of the main influences on life satisfaction during the military service, as connections between life satisfaction and satisfaction with military service are statistically significant in many cases, for example the intergroup relations, the relations with commanders, also the perception of autonomy and usefulness of military training. The results of the analysis proved that conscripts who joined the military service voluntarily had significantly higher satisfaction with the service than those who were drafted. It was interesting to see that only education and age, out of all the socio-demographic aspects which were examined in this paper, have significant influence on satisfaction with military service. While the key topic of this research is (life) satisfaction, it is important to understand that satisfaction is a very complex topic to study because of the variety of indicators that could influence it so that the same variables might not give the same results for different individuals. The results of this study show that the environment offered by the Defence Forces and how individuals react to this is more important than the conscript’s socio-demographic background. In addition, contrary to expectations, the data revealed that despite the isolation from everyday life, satisfaction with different aspects still evolved from the same principles as outside of the military service. This means that it should, at least in theory, be possible to keep conscripts’ life satisfaction on a similar level as before the start of the military service throughout the whole period of service.



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