Findings about Health from a Large Scale Survey Study
The National Health Study for a New Generation of U.S. Veterans is a large-scale study of Veterans who served during Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) (the deployed group), and Veterans who served elsewhere during the same time period (the non-deployed group). Researchers compared these two groups by asking scientifically selected individuals to complete a 16-page survey on their current health. In the survey, participants reported on a wide variety of their physical and mental health conditions, health behaviors, exposures, and military experience. In total, 20,563 Veterans from across the country participated between 2009–2011.
Researchers have been analyzing responses from the survey to learn about the health issues facing OEF/OIF-era Veterans. So far, researchers have focused on respiratory health, pregnancy and infertility, mental health, and cigarette smoking, and reported the following findings in scientific publications:
Respiratory health: Among both the deployed and the non-deployed Veterans, researchers found that the prevalence of at least one respiratory exposure, such as dust or sand, burning trash or feces, or smoke from oil fires, was high (95 percent among the deployed Veterans and 70 percent among the non-deployed Veterans). Those with a respiratory exposure were at an increased risk of a respiratory disease among the entire study population.
Deployed Veterans were 29 percent more likely to report that they were diagnosed with sinusitis compared with non-deployed Veterans. Researchers found no significant difference in asthma or bronchitis between the deployed and non-deployed Veterans.
Pregnancy and infertility: Researchers looked at preterm birth, low birth rate, and macrosomia (high weight in a fetus) in pregnancies among non-deployed women and in pregnancies among women who had a baby before, during, and after deployment. The researchers found a greater risk of preterm birth in pregnancies among non-deployed women and in women who had their baby after deployment, compared to women who had a baby before deployment. Researchers found a similar pattern for low birth rate. They found no association between deployment and macrosomia.
As many as 15.8 percent of women and 13.8 percent of men who participated in this study reported that they had experienced infertility. Infertility is defined as trying with a partner to get pregnant for more than 12 months. Infertility among the general population in the U.S. ranges from 8 percent to 20 percent, depending on the definition used.
Mental health: 13.5 percent of study participants screened positive for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)—15.7 percent of the deployed Veterans screened positive for PTSD, and 10.9 percent of non-deployed Veterans screened positive.
For deployed and non-deployed Veterans combined, 41.5 percent of women and 4 percent of men experienced military sexual trauma.
Cigarette smoking: Among the deployed and non-deployed Veterans combined, 42.7 percent were non-smokers, 32.5 percent were current smokers, and 24.8 percent were former smokers. Compared to non-smokers and former smokers, a greater percentage of current smokers were 24-34 years old, earned less than $35,000 per year, were separated or divorced, or never married or single.
Read more about the National Health Study for a New Generation of U.S. Veterans, and find links to summaries of the research findings at https://www.publichealth.va.gov/epidemiology/studies/new-generation/index.asp