While active-duty military personnel are less likely to be overweight or obese compared with civilians of similar ages, that benefit does not always persist after servicemembers become veterans.
A new study from the VA Puget Sound Health Care System and the University of Washington in Seattle sought to quantify weight changes before, concurrent with and following discharge from the military.1
Researchers looked at weight-related questionnaires that 38,686 eligible participants in the Millennium Cohort Study completed approximately every three years from 2001 to 2007.
Analysis indicated that weight gain was greatest around the time of discharge from service and in the three years before discharge, 1.0-1.3 kg per year, while it was nearly half as much during service, only 0.6-0.7 kg per year, and three years after service ended, 0.7 kg per year. As a result, six-year weight gain was more than 2 kg greater in those who were discharged compared with those who remained in the military during follow-up — 5.7 vs. 3.5 kg in men and 6.3 vs. 4.0 kg in women.
Several factors predisposed the study group to increased risks of clinically important weight gain: discharge from the military, younger age, less education, being overweight at baseline, being in the active-duty component as opposed to Reserve or National Guard and having been exposed to combat during deployment.
“Discharge from military service presents a window of risk and opportunity to prevent unhealthy weight gain in military personnel and veterans,” the authors noted.
1: Littman AJ, Jacobson IG, Boyko EJ, Powell TM, Smith TC. Weight change following US military service. Int J Obes (Lond). 2012 Apr 10. doi:10.1038/ijo.2012.46. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 22491091. Eur J Intern Med. 2012 Apr;23(3):219-26. Epub 2011 Nov 21.