Veteran health in the U.S. - Statistics & Facts

In 2016, approximately 7.4 percent of U.S. adults were military veterans. Physical health, mental health and health care services are especially important for military veterans given the stressful and strenuous work that can be involved in such an occupation. In the United States, the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), a subdivision of the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA), is responsible for providing all forms of health care to veterans. Health insurance rates have been shown to be higher among those who have served in the military and in 2016 approximately 14.6 million U.S. Americans had health insurance through military health care.

Those who have served in the military have been shown to be more prone to some specific health issues than those who have not served. For example, those who have served reported being diagnosed with cancer at higher rates than those who had not served. Among VA patients in 2013, an estimated 10.2 percent had been diagnosed with cancer while 60.6 percent had been diagnosed with a cardiovascular condition.

Military veterans can also be more susceptible to mental health issues such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, a majority, 66.8 percent, of VHA patients had no mental health diagnosis in 2013, while 20.3 percent were diagnosed with mood anxiety and 4.2 percent with PTSD. Nevertheless, the suicide rate among veterans is significantly higher than the national average. In 2014, there were 39.2 suicide deaths per 100,000 population among veterans, compared to the national rate of just 13 deaths per 100,000 population.

Military veterans suffer from the same health risks such as drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes, unhealthy diets, and physical inactivity to a greater or lesser degree as average citizens. While 35 percent of U.S. males who had not served in the military suffered from insufficient sleep, 43.4 percent of males who had served suffered in comparison, with rates for females showing similar differences. Rates of physical inactivity were lower for those who had served in the military compared to average citizens, however rates of tobacco use were found to be higher.

When speaking of military veterans it is important to remember that even though the majority of veterans are men, there are still almost 1.6 million female veterans in the U.S. In 2014 and 2015, female veterans self reported having a high health status slightly more than females who had not served. However, females who served reported higher rates of a number of health conditions including arthritis, cancer and cardiovascular disease. Female veterans also reported more mental health problems than those who did not serve, with 30.8 percent of female veterans reporting some mental illness in the past year, compared to 21.7 percent of females who had not served.

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