America's Health Rankings, United Health Foundation Logo

Overview

This report provides a comparative, national portrait of the health of those who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces and those who have not. Findings highlight the positive health experiences as well as health challenges faced by individuals who have served. In particular, key findings from 2013 to 2014 data indicate that as compared with individuals who have not served, those who have served have:
  • Lower overall rates of physical inactivity yet higher rates of other unhealthy behaviors such as smoking, excessive drinking, and insufficient sleep.
  • Significantly higher overall rates of health insurance coverage and preventive service utilization, yet lower rates of having a personal health care provider.
  • Better overall self-reported health status, yet significantly higher rates of coronary heart disease, heart attack, cancer, stroke, and other chronic conditions.
  • Slightly lower overall rates of depression and frequent mental distress, though among females who have served rates are considerably higher.

Behaviors

Those who have served report lower rates of physical inactivity than those who have not served; however they report higher rates of smoking, excessive drinking, and insufficient sleep. More detailed findings on these health behavior measures show that:
  • Males and females and those of all ages who have served are less physically inactive than those who have not served.
  • Unhealthy behaviors such as smoking, excessive drinking, and insufficient sleep are particularly common among individuals aged 18 to 39 years who have served.
  • Rates of smoking and especially excessive drinking have declined since 2011 to 2012 among those who have served.
  • While no significant differences exist in the overall rate of obesity among those who have and have not served, the rate is highest for those aged 40 to 59 years who have served.

Policy

Those who have served report higher rates of health insurance coverage than those who have not. Nine in 10 males and females who have served report having health insurance as compared with roughly eight in 10 of those who have not served. More detailed findings show that:
  • Rates of health insurance are significantly higher for many minorities who have served as compared with minorities who have not.
  • Hispanics who have served have higher rates of health insurance than those who have not served (87.9% vs. 66.5%, respectively).
  • Rates of health insurance increased by roughly 3% from 2011 to 2012 to 2013 to 2014 for both those who have served and not served.
  • Rates of coverage are lowest among people with incomes less than $25,000 annually. However, even in this income bracket those who have served still have a significantly higher rate of coverage than those who have not (75.6% vs. 67.3%, respectively).
Higher rates of insurance coverage among those who have served are likely the result of policies that provide unique health insurance options for those who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces. These include TRICARE for those currently serving or who have retired from military service and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health benefits for those who have served and were discharged other than dishonorably.

Clinical Care

Despite reporting higher rates of health insurance coverage, lower unmet medical need due to cost, and higher usage rates of certain preventive services, those who have served are less likely to report having a personal health care provider than those who have not served (73.5% vs. 75.5%, respectively). Having someone that people see as their personal doctor or health care provider is an important predictor of having a usual source of care when needed and is linked to better health outcomes. Following are more detailed findings on these measures:
  • Those who have served aged 18 to 39 years are least likely to report having a personal health care provider (59.3%) when compared with other segments of the population.
  • Hispanics are the only race/ethnic group for which those who have served are significantly more likely to have a personal health care provider than those who have not served (74.2% vs. 62.3%, respectively).
  • Unmet medical need due to cost is lower among all groups of individuals who have served than not served. Between 2011 to 2012 and 2013 to 2014, unmet medical need due to cost declined significantly for both those who have and have not served, especially for those aged 18-39 years, a decline that may coincide with the health insurance expansions implemented by the Affordable Care Act.
  • Those who have served report higher overall rates of flu vaccine (50.3% vs. 36.5%), colorectal cancer screening (72.7% vs. 64.9%), and dental visits (69.5% vs. 63.7%) than those who have not served. Rates for these measures are also significantly higher for most minorities who have served than not served.





Health Outcomes

Individuals who have served report better overall health status, yet they are diagnosed with chronic conditions at higher rates than those who have not served. Detailed findings indicate that:
  • Those who have served are more likely to report being in excellent or very good health than those who have not served (56.5% vs. 51.2%).
  • Those aged 18 to 39 years who have served are more likely to report being in excellent or very good health than those of the same age who have not served (67.2% vs. 57.8%).
  • Minorities, particularly blacks (51.0% vs. 42.3%), Hispanics (52.0% vs. 33.6%), and American Indians/Alaska Natives (50.3% vs. 40.1%) who have served report better overall health than those who have not served.
  • As a whole, those who have served report slightly lower rates of depression (16.1% vs. 17.7%) and frequent mental distress (10.9% vs. 11.6%) than those who have not served. However, the rate of depression is especially high among females (25.5%) and those earning less than $25,000 annually (29.3%) who have served.
  • Males and females who have served report higher rates of many chronic conditions than those who have not served.
  • Rates of coronary heart disease (5.5% vs. 3.4%) and heart attack (6.0% vs. 3.6%) are significantly higher for those who have served than not served.
  • Cancer is more commonly diagnosed among those who have served. Nearly half of those aged 80 years and over who have served have been diagnosed with cancer as compared with roughly one-third (34.1%) of those who have not served in the same age group.
  • The rate of diabetes is slightly higher for those who have served than not served (9.9% vs. 9.2%). However, nearly one in four individuals aged 60 to 79 years who have served (24.2%) say they have diabetes—a rate higher than all other groups.
  • Males and females who have served are more likely to report having a functional impairment. While the rate of functional impairment is generally higher at older ages, among those aged 18 to 39 years the rate is significantly higher for those who have served than not served (16.3% vs. 11.8%).

Health Strengths and Challenges of Those Who Have Served

Findings from this report reveal the many positive health experiences of those who have served, while also shedding light on the health challenges they face. This section summarizes these strengths and challenges across the measures on Health Behavior, Policy, Clinical Care, and Health Outcomes. These results are intended to serve as general markers of overall health of those who have and have not served, with more detailed findings for each measure provided in the next section on Measures.







Please tell us a little more about you

We appreciate you taking the time to help America’s Health Rankings better understand our audiences. Your feedback will allow us to optimize our website and provide you with additional resources in the future. Thank you.

Please select one option which best describes your profession or field of expertise

Journalist or media professional
Health Policy Professional
Public health professional (state, local, or community level)
Health care provider or administrator
Member of an advocacy group or trade organization
Academic, student, or researcher
Government administrator, legislator, or staffer
Concerned citizen
Other
Don't show me this again
Please take a quick survey.