Are Vets Healthier Than Non-Vets?

November 10, 2016

On Nov. 10, America's Health Rankings, in partnership with MOAA and United Health Foundation, released the 2016 Health of Those Who Have Served Report. The timing was tied to Veterans Day.

The report compares selected health measures of veterans with those of non-veteran civilians in the same age and demographic groups.

The report focused on those who have served on active duty in the U.S. armed forces in Regular, National Guard, or Reserve status.

The study reviewed data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC's) Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), the world's largest annual population-based telephone survey system, which has been tracking behaviors in America since 1984.

The sample included nearly half a million people, of whom nearly 60,000 self-identified as veterans. The analysis addressed 24 indicators of health behaviors, health outcomes, and utilization of key health care services.

Key findings include:

  • People who have served report better overall health, but face higher rates of chronic health challenges

Veterans are more likely to report being in very good or excellent health compared with civilians. However, men and women vets report higher rates of several chronic diseases and unhealthy behaviors compared with their civilian counterparts.

For example, veterans have a 13-percent higher rate of cancer, 62-percent higher rate of coronary heart disease, and 67-percent higher rate of heart attacks. Veterans 18-39 years of age have lower rates of chronic conditions such as diabetes, but they sleep less and smoke more than non-vets.

Smoke Less Infographic

  • Men and women vets are more active at all ages

Physical inactivity was 22 percent less prevalent among people who have served in the military compared with those who have not.

That was true across all ages. Physical inactivity is 38 percent lower among 18-39 year old veterans than non-vets, and 21 percent lower among veterans over 80 years of age.

  • Veterans are more likely to have health insurance coverage and use preventative services.

Over 90 percent of veterans have health insurance, compared to 82.8 percent for non-vets.

Those who served used more preventative services and reported fewer unmet health needs compared to non-vets.

“The health of those who have served is a high priority for policymakers, health officials, and community leaders,” said MOAA President and CEO Lt. Gen. Dana T. Atkins, USAF (Ret). “Insights from this report will help stimulate dialogue and action to better serve the unique health needs of uniformed servicemembers and veterans and their families.”

This is the second time MOAA has partnered with the United Health Foundation to identify specific areas to improve care for the men and women who have served.


Veterans Health Report

How does the health of those who have served in the military compare to civilians?

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