Date of Defense:
August 18, 2010
Objective: Military life involves unique occupational exposures, including increased job demands, work-family conflict, sexual harassment and assault, and combat-related deployment experiences. The purpose of this study was to compare age differences in self-reported mental health outcomes for women and men with and without a history of active duty military service in a non-institutionalized, population-based sample.
Methods: We used weighted data from the 2007 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (n=415,364) to assess the association between active duty military service and self-reported mental health outcomes. We conducted sex- and age-stratified multivariate logistic regression using Stata version 11.
Results: Compared to their civilian counterparts, women and men aged 18 to 44 with active duty military service were significantly less likely to report one or more days of “not good” mental health in the past 30 days (OR=0.78, OR=0.73, respectively) or to have an elevated Kessler-6 score (OR=0.57, OR=0.79, respectively). Mental health outcomes were similar for women and men in older age groups regardless of military exposure.
Conclusion: Younger individuals with active duty military service were less likely to report mental health issues than non-military women and men from the same age group. It is possible that some aspects of military training may promote mental health for those most proximal to the exposure or that military service affords younger individuals greater access to mental health screening, education, prevention, and treatment than civilian women and men.