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Behavioral risk factors and use of preventive services among veterans in Washington State.

Koepsell T, Reiber G, Simmons KW. Behavioral risk factors and use of preventive services among veterans in Washington State. Preventive medicine. 2002 Dec 1; 35(6):557-62.

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BACKGROUND: Little is known about the special preventive health needs of U.S. veterans and the 3.6 million users of VA health care. METHODS: The Washington State version of the 1999 Behavioral Risk Factor Survey included three new questions about veteran status and use of VA health care. Data on this population-based sample of 3,608 adults were used to compare sociodemographic, health, and behavioral characteristics between veterans and nonveterans and between VA users and nonusers. RESULTS: Veterans were nearly 13 years older than nonveterans. VA users were socioeconomically worse off and had poorer health status than nonusers. Current smoking among males was more common among veterans than among nonveterans (24% vs 18%). This difference persisted after controlling for age, race, education, and income and held across all age groups. Use of several screening tests varied little in relation to veteran or VA user status. CONCLUSIONS: The BRFSS has become a rich source of data on veteran health. Veterans and VA users have distinct sociodemographic profiles that must be considered when comparing health-related characteristics. Cigarette smoking is especially prevalent among veterans--an excess unexplained by sociodemographic differences.

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