Post-9/11 veterans report similar or better outcomes than non-veterans in many life domains, study finds

Prior research has examined how the post-military health and well-being of both the larger veteran population and earlier veterans differs from non-veterans. However, no study to date has provided a holistic examination of how the health, vocational, financial and social well-being of the newest generation of post-9/11 U.S. military veterans compares with their non-veteran peers.

Now a new study has found that these Veterans report similar or better outcomes than non-veterans in a number of life domains. This includes greater engagement in a number of positive health behaviors and better outcomes on some aspects of social well-being than non-Veterans.

The finding that post-9/11 Veterans reported greater engagement in some health-promoting behaviors is particularly interesting given that this finding contrasts with research on the Veteran population as a whole (including Veterans who served before 9/11)."

Dawne S. Vogt, PhD, corresponding author , research scientist in the Women's Health Sciences Division, National Center for PTSD at VA Boston Healthcare System and professor of psychiatry at Boston University School of Medicine

U.S. Veterans post-9/11 and non-veterans reported on their health and broader well-being as part of a confidential web-based survey in 2018. Although the researchers found that post-9/11 men and women veterans experienced poorer health status than non-Veterans, they reported greater engagement in a number of positive health behaviors (healthy eating and exercise) and were more likely to indicate having access to health care. Veterans also endorsed greater social well-being than non-veterans on several outcomes, whereas few differences were observed in vocational and financial well-being.

"Despite their greater vulnerability to experiencing health conditions, the newest generation of post-9/11 U.S. Veterans report experiencing similar or better outcomes than non-Veterans in many aspects of their lives. These findings underscore the value of examining a wider range of health and well-being outcomes in Veteran research and highlight a number of important directions for intervention, public health education, policy and research related to the reintegration of military veterans within broader civilian society," said Vogt.

According to the researchers, the finding that post-9/11 veterans reported poorer health status than their peers, while not surprising due to their potential exposure to health risks in the military, supports the need for continued investment in the provision of high-quality health care in both the VA and community-based health-care settings. "Given that post-9/11 Veterans reported greater engagement in some health-promoting behaviors than their non-Veteran peers (diet, physical activity, and strength training), these efforts should also focus on preventing declines in veterans' engagement in health-promoting behaviors as they move through their life course," she added. In addition, findings support the need for greater attention to veterans' strengths, as well as their vulnerabilities, in both research and public education efforts.

These findings appear online in the journal Social Science and Medicine – Population Health.

This material is based upon work supported by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Veterans Health Administration, Patient Care Services, Health Outcomes Military Exposures Epidemiology Program.

Source:
Journal reference:

Vogt, D., et al. (2022) Strengths and vulnerabilities: Comparing post-9/11 U.S. veterans' and non-veterans' perceptions of health and broader well-being. SSM - Population Health. doi.org/10.1016/j.ssmph.2022.101201.

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