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Obstructive respiratory disease in U.S. veterans: Prevalence, characteristics, and health burden.

OBJECTIVE: To examine the psychiatric and physical health burden of obstructive respiratory disease in a nationally representative sample of U.S. Veterans.

METHODS: Secondary data analyses were conducted using data from the 2019-2020 National Health and Resilience in Veterans Study, which surveyed a nationally representative sample of U.S. Veterans. Participants self-reported health professional-diagnosed obstructive respiratory disease (i.e., asthma, chronic bronchitis or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). Veterans who reported obstructive respiratory disease (n = 502) were compared to veterans without this disease but with at least one or more other medical conditions-controls (n = 3169) on measures of sociodemographic, trauma, psychiatric, and physical health characteristics. Multivariable regression analyses examined independent associations between obstructive respiratory disease and psychiatric conditions and physical characteristics.

RESULTS: A total 12.5% of the sample reported a diagnosis of obstructive respiratory disease. Compared to controls, veterans with obstructive respiratory disease were more likely to be female, unmarried/partnered, lower income, residing in the Midwest, receiving VA healthcare, and had greater lifetime and childhood trauma burden. In adjusted analyses, veterans with respiratory disease had 47-91% greater odds of screening positive for current posttraumatic stress, major depressive, and generalized anxiety disorders, and had 48% greater odds of current suicide ideation. They were also more likely to have lifetime nicotine use disorder and had more medical comorbidities and more severe somatic symptoms.

CONCLUSIONS: Obstructive respiratory disease is prevalent among U.S. veterans and associated with significant mental and physical health burden. Results highlight the need for timely screening and treatment for psychiatric and medical conditions that are highly comorbid with obstructive respiratory disease in this population.

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