America's Health Rankings, United Health Foundation Logo
Since 2016, America’s Health Rankings has examined important differences in the health of those who have served in the U.S. military compared with those who have not. The Health of Those Who Have Served Report continues to identify profound differences between those who have and have not served across health behaviors, social and economic factors, clinical care and health outcomes.
This year, the report finds that compared to the general civilian population, those who have served:
  • Have experienced almost twice the rates of increase in mental health challenges, including depression, frequent mental distress, mental illness and suicidal thoughts than civilians. Females who have served self-report higher rates of mental health challenges.
  • Are more likely to experience physical health challenges, including higher rates of chronic disease and chronic pain, and lower rates of being able-bodied; severe hearing impairment and ambulatory difficulties are notably higher among those who have served.
  • Are more likely to report being in very good or excellent health, despite ongoing — and in some cases, worsening — health challenges. However, the gap is narrowing as the rate of good or excellent health has increased for civilians since 2011-2012 while remaining essentially unchanged for those who have served.
  • Experience higher rates of access to health care and are less likely to report avoiding care due to cost. Some subpopulations, such as Black and Hispanic adults who have served, have lower rates of avoiding care due to cost than their civilian counterparts.
  • Have higher rates of uptake of preventive clinical services, including colorectal cancer screenings, annual dental visits and flu vaccination.
  • Continue to have higher rates of substance use, including excessive drinking, cigarette smoking and smokeless tobacco use.
  • Among those ages 65 and older, have higher rates of smoking and excessive drinking, along with rates of depression that are lower than those of their civilian counterparts but rising more rapidly.

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