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Combat Duty Harms Long-Term Health of Vets
Date:4/24/2009

Though soldiers tend to be healthier, trauma erases the advantage, study finds,,,,

FRIDAY, April 24 (HealthDay News) -- Those serving in the armed forces tend to be in better health than the general population, but for veterans who experienced combat duty, that initial health advantage is erased.

In fact, aging combat veterans have a poorer quality of life than do non-combat veterans, according to a study that was to be presented Friday at the American Heart Association's 10th Scientific Forum on Quality of Care and Outcomes Research in Cardiovascular Disease and Stroke, in Washington, D.C.

"Combat veterans had poorer overall functional status and quality of life compared to men who served but didn't see combat," said study author Anna Johnson, an epidemiology researcher at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

"Combat has a lasting impact. It's not something that's stressful and then goes away. It looks like it has a lifelong impact on people's daily ability," Johnson said.

Although it's clear that combat is stressful and that such stress can have an impact on short-term health and well-being, the researchers said that the long-term impact on well-being and self-perceived health hasn't been well-studied.

To get an idea of the long-term impact of serving in combat, they reviewed data from 5,347 community-dwelling men between the ages of 52 and 75 who had participated in the fourth Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study, which began between 1996 and 1998. Eighty percent of the men in this study were white, and 20 percent were black.

From this group, 2,042 were non-veterans, while 2,127 were classified as non-combat veterans. There were 1,178 combat veterans who had served in World War II, Korea or in Vietnam.

The researchers found that non-veterans were 37 percent more likely than non-combat veterans to report being in poor or fair health. This was tr
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