After discharge, military veterans are most concerned about their physical and mental health, a new study finds.
Although most vets are satisfied with their work and social relationships, they are less happy with their health care. Most are coping with chronic physical or mental health conditions, researchers found.
"What remains to be seen is whether those veterans with health conditions -- which were more commonly experienced by deployed veterans -- continue to maintain high levels of well-being in other life domains over time," said lead author Dawne Vogt, a research psychologist at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Boston Healthcare System.
"Given that it is well-established that health problems can erode functioning in other life domains, it may be that these individuals experience declines in their broader well-being over time," she added in a VA news release.
For the study, Vogt's team surveyed nearly 10,000 vets discharged in the fall of 2016. They were surveyed about three months after their separation and again six months later.
Their biggest concern at both points was health. Fifty-three percent of vets said they had chronic physical conditions, and 33% said they had chronic mental health conditions.
The most common conditions were chronic pain, sleep problems, anxiety and depression. More than half said satisfaction with their health declined within months of leaving the service.
More than three-quarters of vets said they were in an intimate relationship. Almost two-thirds said they had regular contact with friends and extended family and were involved in their communities.
More than half said they had found work within three months of discharge. But within a year, their functioning on the job had declined -- possibly due to health concerns, the study found.
And vets who had enlisted in the service were in poorer health and had lower job and social satisfaction than officers. Veterans who had been in war zones had more health concerns than others.
Given these findings, Vogt said it's important to deal with readjustment challenges quickly before they get worse and affect vets' well-being.
"Given that most transition support is targeted to veterans with the most acute or chronic concerns, this recommendation may require rethinking how veteran programs prioritize their efforts," she said. "While it makes sense to target resources to those with the greatest need, it is better to support individuals before their concerns become chronic when we can."
The report was published Jan. 2 in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
For more on vets' health, visit the U.S. Veterans Health Administration.