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HEALTH / WELL-BEING

Impact of military service on physical health later in life: a qualitative study of geriatric UK veterans and non-veterans

July, 2019
Article:

This study aimed to explore veteran and non-veteran perceptions of the impact of their occupation on their physical well-being later in life. The research study interviews 35 veterans and 25 non -veterans using semi-structured qualitative interviews. It concluded that military service was largely perceived to be beneficial for wellbeing however found veterans were largely unwilling to seek treatment.

Abstract

Objectives Military veterans often experience physical health problems in later life; however, it remains unclear whether these problems are due to military service or are a feature of the ageing process. This study aimed to explore veteran and non-veteran perceptions of the impact of their occupation on their physical well-being later in life. Design Semi-structured qualitative interviews analysed using thematic analysis. Participants 35 veterans (≥65 years) and 25 non-veterans (≥65 years) were recruited, as well as a close companion of all participants for triangulation (n=60). Results Most veterans reported good physical health later in life which they attributed to the fitness they developed during military service. However, several veterans described challenges in maintaining their desired level of physical activity due to new commitments and limited sports facilities when they left service. Ongoing physical health difficulties, such as deafness, were perceived to be due to exposure to workplace hazards and appeared more common in veterans compared with non-veterans. Veterans also described greater reluctance than non-veterans to seek medical treatment for physical health difficulties, which could be challenging for close companions who had to provide informal care. Conclusions Military service was largely perceived to be beneficial for physical well-being; although when occupation-related physical health problems were experienced, many veterans were unwilling to seek treatment. These findings may inform clinicians of the needs of older veterans and highlight potential barriers to care.

Full Reference

Williamson, V., Harwood, H., Greenberg, K., Stevelink, S. and Greenberg, N., 2019. Impact of military service on physical health later in life: a qualitative study of geriatric UK veterans and non-veterans. BMJ Open. doi: 10.1136/ bmjopen-2018-028189.

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