Silhouetted anonymous Royal Marines from Lima Company 42 Commando doing fast rope training
Military Life

Satisfaction With Service Life 'Well Below' Peak Levels Of Decade Ago

The Armed Forces Continuous Attitude Survey examines thoughts and perceptions of military personnel.

Silhouetted anonymous Royal Marines from Lima Company 42 Commando doing fast rope training

A survey into attitudes among members of the Armed Forces has suggested the level of satisfaction with service life in general is lower than a decade ago.

Participants were asked for their responses to a series of questions about their experiences for the Armed Forces Continuous Attitude Survey (AFCAS).


In the latest survey, 45% of all personnel who responded said they are satisfied with service life in general, compared to 61% in 2009.

There was an increase seen in the number of Royal Marines reporting high self, unit and service morale in 2020, following what the survey report says have been "historically low" levels in recent years.

The number of service personnel across the military reporting high self-morale did not change from 2019, staying at just over four in ten (41%).

The majority of respondents said their family is proud (89%) and supportive (82%) of their Armed Forces career, however, less than a third agreed their loved ones benefit from being a service family (29%).

Less than half (45%) of respondents agree they are able to maintain a balance between work and personal life.

RAF personnel are the most satisfied (52%) with their ability to maintain a work/life balance.

Anonymous Army recruits
Just 26% believe that leaders in their service will take action on the results of the survey.


Overall, 61% agreed they are given sufficient authority to make decisions and 58% agree they are encouraged to find new ways of operating.

These attitudes are largely unchanged since 2019.

Furthermore, 76% agree that their immediate superior supports them in their job.

Despite this, negative perceptions still exist.

Two in five personnel disagree that senior leaders understand and represent their interests, while a third disagree that senior leaders communicate decisions to personnel.

Two-fifths disagree that senior leaders understand the impact of change on personnel.

Four in ten report being satisfied with how their career is managed (41%), while a third are dissatisfied.

A third of personnel are now satisfied with the opportunity to work flexibly (33%), up from 29% in 2019.

Sixty-one per cent of respondents plan to stay in the services, up 2% on 2019.

Job security is the top reason influencing intentions to stay in the services (75%), while impact on family and personal life is the most common reason given for those with intentions to leave (62%).


Thirty-nine per cent of personnel are satisfied with their rate of basic pay in 2020 - lower than the peak figure reported in 2010 (52%).

However, satisfaction with pay has increased for a second year in a row.

A third of personnel agree the x-factor of the job is sufficient compensation for the service lifestyle, an increase of 3% on 2019. However, just under half (48%) disagree.

Thirty-nine per cent agree the pay and benefits they receive are fair for the work they do – this is the highest level seen since the question was first asked in 2015. A total of 43% disagreed, however.


Three quarters of personnel (76%) live in service accommodation during the working week.

Fifty-one per cent say they are satisfied with the overall standard, 59% are satisfied with value for money and 31% report being satisfied with the quality of maintenance and repair work.

Anonymous shot of sailors onboard HMS Queen Elizabeth 041219 CREDIT ROYAL NAVY
Royal Navy personnel are most likely to report they deploy too often (Picture: Royal Navy).


Less than a fifth (18%) of personnel report the frequency of deployment as being too regular. Royal Navy personnel are most likely to report they deploy too often (30%), compared to the RAF (24%), the Army and Royal Marines (both 9%).

Naval personnel are also most likely to say the length of their deployments is too long in comparison to the other services (Royal Marines: 10%; Army: 11%; RAF: 20%). However, the figure of 32% among Navy personnel is a decrease of 11 percentage points since 2017.

Treatment and perception

More than seven in ten (73%) personnel agree that they are treated fairly at work, but the proportion of respondents reporting they have been the subject of bullying, discrimination or harassment in the past 12 months is more than one in 10 (12%). This figure is unchanged since the question was first asked in 2015.  

Most personnel who have been subject to bullying, discrimination or harassment do not make a complaint (90%), according to the survey. The main reasons a formal written complaint is not made, are not believing action would be taken (60%) and belief it could impact adversely on their career (52%).

Just under four in ten (37%) agree that they are valued by society at large; a similar proportion disagree. The proportion has remained stable following a decline between 2015 and 2017.

On the survey as a whole, just 26% believe that leaders in their service will take action on the results.

Twenty-two per cent agree effective action has been taken on the results of AFCAS.

Cover image: Royal Navy.