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Changes in the health and broader well-being of U.S. veterans in the first three years after leaving military service: Overall trends and group differences.
Vogt D, Borowski SC, Godier-McBard LR, Fossey MJ, Copeland LA, Perkins DF, Finley EP. Changes in the health and broader well-being of U.S. veterans in the first three years after leaving military service: Overall trends and group differences. Social science & medicine (1982). 2022 Feb 1; 294:114702.
Scholars have theorized that the initial period after military discharge may be a particularly vulnerable time for veterans. Yet, several recent studies raise the prospect that risk for poor adjustment may actually increase rather than decrease over time. The current study examined whether the U.S. military veteran population experiences improvements or declines in their health and broader well-being during the first three years after leaving military service and documented differences based on gender, military rank, and warzone deployment history.
A population-based sample of 3733 newly separated veterans completed a survey within three months of separation (Fall 2016), followed by five additional surveys at six-month intervals. Weighted multilevel logistic regressions were conducted to examine changes in the proportion of veterans reporting good health and broader well-being over time.
Most aspects of veterans' health and broader well-being worsened over time, with a noteworthy increase in reporting of mental health conditions and a decline in veterans' community involvement. Declines in the proportion of veterans reporting good health and well-being were most notable for women, with smaller differences observed for other subgroups.
The finding that veterans experienced worsening health and broader well-being over time highlights the need for enhanced prevention and early intervention efforts to mitigate these declines. Findings also point to the importance of attending to the unique readjustment concerns of female veterans and other at-risk subgroups.