Obesity rates among veterans are approaching that of the general public, according to a new study by researchers at Yale and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder.
The nationally representative survey of more than 3,000 U.S. veterans found that nearly one in three — 32.7 percent — are obese. The prevalence of obesity in the general public is 37.7 percent.
“This is a higher rate than previous estimates in U.S. veterans and is somewhat surprising, since most military servicemembers are fit while serving and are predominantly men, who tend to have lower rates of obesity than women,” said first author Elina Stefanovics, PhD, Associate Research Scientist in the Yale Department of Psychiatry and at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs New England Mental Illness and Research Education Clinical Center in West Haven.
The rate was particularly high among younger and non-white veterans, smokers, and those with histories of trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
“The findings further document the substantial burden of a range of health issues and functional difficulties associated with obesity in this population,” said senior author Robert Pietrzak, PhD, Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Director of the Translational Psychiatric Epidemiology Laboratory of the National Center for PTSD. “Collectively, these findings underscore the importance of multi-component interventions, such as integrated primary and mental healthcare approaches, in managing obesity and related conditions in this population.”
Marc Potenza, MD, PhD, Professor of Psychiatry, is co-author of the study, published May 30 in the Journal of Psychiatric Research.