Health ranks as top concern for veterans immediately after military service


Findings based on survey of nearly 10,000 veterans.

In the months after separating from military service, most veterans are less satisfied with their health than with their work or social relationships, found a study by Veterans Affairs researchers. While the veterans surveyed were mostly satisfied with their work and social well-being, a majority were dealing with chronic physical health conditions and a third reported chronic mental health conditions.

According to Dr. Dawne Vogt of the VA Boston Healthcare System and Boston University, lead author on the study, the results highlight the importance of addressing veterans’ health concerns early.

“What remains to be seen is whether those veterans with health conditions–which were more commonly experienced by deployed veterans–continue to maintain high levels of well-being in other life domains over time,” she says. “Given that it is well-established that health problems can erode functioning in other life domains, it may be that these individuals experience declines in their broader well-being over time.”

The results appear Jan. 2, 2019, in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

More than 200,000 U.S. service members transition out of military service each year. Researchers have pointed to the early transition period as a critical time to address challenges veterans may face in readjusting to civilian life.

To investigate which of these challenges are most pressing to newly separated veterans, researchers from the VA National Center for PTSD and colleagues surveyed almost 10,000 veterans from a population-based roster of all separating service members.

All participants left the military in the fall of 2016. Veterans were surveyed about three months after their separation, and then six months after that.

The researchers found that the biggest concern was health. At both three and nine months after leaving the military, 53% of participants said they had chronic physical health conditions. About 33% reported chronic mental health conditions at both time points.

The most commonly reported health conditions were chronic pain, sleep problems, anxiety, and depression. Slightly more than half of participants said they had reduced satisfaction with their health between when they first left the military and a few months later. Health satisfaction did not change much between three and nine months after separation.

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