388 Veterans & Mental Health

Research by Lee, Hyunyup., Aldwin, C. M., Soyoung, C., Spiro, Avron. (2019).

Written by Shannon Cantalupo, B.S. 

We know that for veterans experiencing traumatic events in combat, there is a significant impact on their mental health. What is the ongoing course though their life-span?

Psychologists examined whether combat exposure influenced veterans’ depressive and anxiety symptoms in later life. They used data from the Veterans Affairs Normative Aging Study on 1100 older male veterans. Periodically, veterans reported on their mental and health symptoms as well as stressful life events beginning in 1963.

Results? Compared with noncombat veterans, combat veterans identified much more substantial increases in their depressive and anxiety symptoms after age 70.

Traumatic events take a toll on our military’s mental health. Most veterans in this sample were drafted or volunteered in wars before the 1973 all-volunteer military. Because these veterans were 40% of the male population, and 40% of veterans are in combat, this impacts many Americans. If you are an elder combat veteran or are working with older veterans, remember, current symptoms may relate to prior combat trauma. This critical understanding may lead to addressing relevant treatment issues.


Lee, H., Aldwin, C. M., Soyoung, C., Spiro, A. (2019). Impact of combat exposure on mental health trajectories in later life: Longitudinal findings from the VA normative aging study. Psychology and Aging, 34(4), 467-474. 

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