The Department of Defense (DoD) announced the final results of its 2008 Survey of Health Related Behaviors among active duty military personnel. Active duty Coast Guard personnel were included in the survey’s cohort for the first time since the series of surveys began in 1980, providing the first comprehensive look at all active military services.
“The 2008 survey indicates that the U.S. Armed Forces are generally strong, healthy, and ready to accomplish their mission,” Jack Smith, MD, acting deputy assistant secretary of defense for clinical policy and program policy, said in a news release. “We are pleased with the continued increase of healthy behaviors and preventive health practices reported by our service members.”
The study shows notable decreases over the past 28 years in the use of cigarettes and illegal drugs and encouraging indicators of mental well being.
In addition, there are improvements in certain self-reported preventive health measures since 2005 including increases in moderate or vigorous exercise and a decline in overweight personnel under age 20 years. When compared to civilian data adjusted to mirror military demographic characteristics, the 2008 survey showed that military rates of heavy drinking
were lower than the civilian average among persons 46 years to 64 years of age. For cigarette use, military rates were slightly higher than civilian rates among persons 18 to 35 years of age, but military rates were significantly lower for persons 36 years
of age and older. The 2008 rate for illicit drug use, including prescription drugs, was 12%, an increase from 5% in 2005. The percentage increase is primarily attributed to the addition of questions that ask for usage of prescription medication for non-medical reasons. Rates of use of nonprescription illicit drugs such as cocaine, marijuana and amphetamines have remained low and stable at about 2%.