Male veterans, active duty service members in poorer health than civilians

Even with access to health care, males in the military, particularly veterans, are in poorer health compared with civilian men, according to recent study results.

Researchers evaluated data from the 2010 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey of 53,000 veterans, 3,700 Guard and Reserve members, 2,000 active duty servicemen and 110,000 civilians, which included questions about their health, health behaviors and their access to health care.

Study results showed that overall, veterans had poorer health and functioning than civilians and National Guard and Reserve members on several indicators despite better health care access.

According to researchers, veterans were more likely to report diabetes vs. those on active duty. Veterans were also more likely to report a lack of exercise compared with active duty men and National Guard and Reserve members. Both veterans and active duty men were more likely to report current smoking and heavy alcohol consumption than civilians and National Guard and Reserve members. Active duty men also reported more smokeless tobacco use than civilians.

National Guard and Reserve men had higher levels of obesity vs. active duty members and veterans; diabetes vs. active duty members; and cardiovascular disease vs. civilians.

Of eligible veterans, only 37% receive care through the Department of Veterans Affairs hospital system. The National Guard and Reserve members were the least likely of the groups to have access to health care, according to researchers. They added that organizations that serve veterans should step up their efforts to prevent poor health behaviors and join with other health care services to provide care.

“We think our research substantiates claims that veterans bear a disproportionate disease burden,” Katherine D. Hoerster, PhD, MPH, a research psychologist at the Veterans Affairs Puget Sound Health Care System in Seattle, stated in a press release.

For more information:

Hoerster KD. Am J Prev Med. 2012;doi:10.1016/j.amepre.2012.07.029.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.