Duty, Honor, Country, Disparity: Race/Ethnic Differences in Health and Disability Among Male Veterans

Abstract

Given their unique occupational hazards and sizable population, military veterans are an important population for the study of health. Yet, veterans are by no means homogeneous, and there are unanswered questions regarding the extent of, and explanations for, racial and ethnic differences in veterans’ health. Using the 2010 National Survey of Veterans, we first documented race/ethnic differences in self-rated health and limitations in activities of daily living among male veterans aged 30–84. Second, we examined potential explanations for the disparities, including socioeconomic and behavioral differences, as well as differences in specific military experiences. We found that Black, Hispanic, and other/multiple race veterans reported much worse health than White veterans. Using progressively adjusted regression models, we uncovered that the poorer self-rated health and higher levels of activity limitations among minority veterans compared to Whites were partially explained by differences in their socioeconomic status and by their military experiences. Minority veterans are a vulnerable population for poor health; future research and policy efforts should attempt to better understand and ameliorate their health disadvantages relative to White veterans.

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Acknowledgments

We thank three anonymous reviewers; the University of Texas Population Research Center (Grant R24 HD42849) for administrative and computing support; the NICHD Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (T32 HD007081-35) for training support; the Department of Veterans Affairs for making the data available to the public; and Drs. Pam Paxton and Debra Umberson for their helpful comments. Earlier versions of this paper were presented at the Southern Demographic Association 2012 annual meeting in Williamsburg, Virginia and the Population Association of America 2013 annual meeting in New Orleans. The contents of this manuscript are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of NICHD, IC2, the Department of Veterans Affairs, or the University of Texas at Austin.

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Correspondence to Connor M. Sheehan.

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Sheehan, C.M., Hummer, R.A., Moore, B.L. et al. Duty, Honor, Country, Disparity: Race/Ethnic Differences in Health and Disability Among Male Veterans. Popul Res Policy Rev 34, 785–804 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11113-015-9358-9

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Keywords

  • Veteran health
  • Health disparities
  • Race/ethnicity
  • Military