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Military service, combat exposure, and health in the later lives of US men

Alair Maclean, Ryan D. Edwards

Abstract


Researchers have produced mixed findings regarding the relationship between military service, war-zone deployment, combat exposure, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and physical health at older ages.  This article uses data drawn from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) to estimate growth curve models that predict how self-rated health and life-threatening illness vary across groups of men defined as combat and non-combat veterans, compared to non-veterans.  According to the findings, combat veterans have worse health than men who did not experience combat during the draft era decades after their service, while non-combat veterans have health that is similar to if not better than non-veterans. Combat veterans were less healthy than these other men based both on a subjective measure of self-rated health and on an objective count of life-threatening illnesses several decades after service.  Studies that simply compare veterans to non-veterans may thus continue to produce mixed findings, because particular types of veterans serve in ways that relate differently to health.


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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.14301/llcs.v8i2.427

Copyright (c) 2017 Alair Maclean, Ryan D. Edwards