April 22, 2009
Combat duty is associated with impaired long-term quality of life in male veterans — erasing the more favorable health they had when entering the military.
In general, healthier people are more likely to be selected for military participation and they have a lower death rate than the general population.
However, combat exposure negatively affects veterans’ mental health, risk of all-cause mortality and short-term cardiovascular health, researchers said.
American Heart Association meeting report:
WASHINGTON — Military combat is associated with lingering detrimental effects on veterans’ quality of life that may cancel the benefit of their once-healthier status compared to non-veterans, researchers reported at the American Heart Association’s 10th Scientific Forum on Quality of Care and Outcomes Research in Cardiovascular Disease and Stroke.
“Veterans with no exposure to combat reported better health and functional status than men who had no military experience. However, combat veterans did not exhibit the more favorable long-term quality of life and functional health levels of their non-combat veteran counterparts,” said Anna M. Johnson, Ph.D., lead author of the study and an epidemiology researcher at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.
“Instead, the combat veterans reported status similar to non-veterans. This suggests that combat exposure is associated with impairment in long-term quality of life and well-being among men that counteracts or overcomes the more favorable baseline health these men had when they entered the military.”
The investigators studied the link between combat stress and quality of life among 5,347 men who took part in the national Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study of heart disease risk.. Twenty percent were African American 80 percent were Caucasian and their ages ranged from 52 to 75 when outcomes were measured in 1996-98.