Health and health behavior differences: U.S. Military, veteran, and civilian men

Hoerster KD, Lehavot K, Simpson T, McFall M, Reiber G, Nelson KM.
Am J Prev Med. 2012 Nov;43(5):483-9. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2012.07.029.

SOURCE:  Research and Development Service, VA Puget Sound Healthcare System, Seattle Division, Seattle, Washington, USA.

BACKGROUND:  Little is known about health and health behavior differences among military service veterans, active duty service members, National Guard/Reserve members, and civilians. Several important differences were identified among U.S. women from these subpopulations; to identify areas for targeted intervention, studies comparing men from these subpopulations are needed.

PURPOSE:  To compare veteran, military, and civilian men on leading U.S. health indicators.

METHODS:  Data were from the 2010 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey, a U.S. population-based study. In 2011, self-reported health outcomes were compared using multivariable logistic regression across male veterans (n=53,406); active duty service members (n=2144); National Guard/Reserve service members (n=3724); and civilians (n=110,116).

RESULTS:  Multivariate logistic regression results are presented. Despite better healthcare access, veterans had poorer health and functioning than civilians and National Guard/Reserve members on several indicators. Veterans also were more likely than those on active duty to report diabetes. Veterans were more likely to report current smoking and heavy alcohol consumption than National Guard/Reserve members and civilian men, and lack of exercise compared to active duty men and National Guard/Reserve members. National Guard/Reserve men had higher levels of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease (versus active duty and veterans, active duty, and civilians, respectively). Active duty men were more likely to report current smoking and heavy alcohol consumption than civilians and National Guard/Reserve members, and reported more smokeless tobacco use than civilians.

CONCLUSIONS:  Veterans have poorer health and health behaviors; increased prevention efforts are needed from veteran-serving organizations. Despite good health, active duty men reported unhealthy lifestyles, indicating an important area for prevention efforts