Decline in Work Functioning
Researchers questioned whether the decline in work functioning could relate to health concerns, which are known to erode broader well-being over time.
Enlisted veterans showed consistently poorer health, vocational and social well-being than officers, and veterans who had deployed to a war zone had more health concerns than veterans who did not deploy.
Differences also were noted between male and female veterans: For example, male veterans were more likely to be employed than female veterans, both three and nine months after leaving the military.
In terms of health conditions, men also were more likely to report hearing conditions, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Women were more likely to report mental health conditions at nine months after separation, as well as depression and anxiety at both timepoints.
On the other hand, researchers didn’t find much variation in the broader well-being of women vs. men. The same was true for deployed veterans; despite more health concerns, they did not report consistently poorer well-being in vocational and social domains compared with their nondeployed peers, “suggesting that deployment is not a marker for poor post-military readjustment in general,” the study stated.
The authors said their results suggest some routes for prevention and early intervention with new veterans. “Although most support for separating veterans has historically focused on bolstering their employment prospects and informing them of their benefits,” they wrote, “the finding that veterans reported the poorest well-being in the health domain highlights the value of prioritizing attention to veterans’ health concerns at the time of separation, especially with regard to chronic pain, sleep, anxiety, and depression. Given that some conditions are likely in place before separation, it may also be necessary to bolster pre-separation health screening and intervention efforts.”
Researchers urged targeted interventions for at-risk subgroups and suggested that the current “one-size-fits-all” approach might not be optimal. They also noted that veterans face some preconceptions that can make their return to civilian life difficult, explaining, “Given that many veterans report that negative stereotypes about them are among the most pernicious barriers to their successful reintegration, there could be substantial value in providing a more nuanced understanding of their post-separation readjustment.”
Vogt noted that most transition support is targeted to veterans with the most acute or chronic concerns, adding, “This recommendation may require rethinking how veteran programs prioritize their efforts. While it makes sense to target resources to those with greatest need, it is better to support individuals before their concerns become chronic when we can.”
- Vogt DS, Tyrell FA, Bramande EA, Nillni YI, et. al. U.S. Military Veterans’ Health and Well-Being in the First Year After Service. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Article in Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.amepre.2019.10.016