Inter-Cohort Variation in the Consequences of U.S. Military Service on Men's Body Mass Index Trajectories in Mid- to Late-Life

Janet M. Wilmoth, Syracuse University
Andrew S. London, Syracuse University
Christine Himes, Illinois Institute of Technology

Data from the 1992 – 2010 Health and Retirement Study (HRS) are used to examine veteran status differences in mid- to late-life BMI trajectories for cohorts of U.S. men born during the first half of the 20th century. Without any controls in the models, veterans exhibit lower BMI, on average, than non-veterans. Once we add controls for birth cohort, early-life characteristics that occur prior to military service, potentially mediating mid- to late-life characteristics, and methodological controls for proxy report, attrition, and death during the study period, the effect of veteran status is small, marginally significant, and positive — net of other factors, veterans are marginally heavier than their non-veterans counterparts. Overall, our analyses demonstrate the large effect of the secular trend in increased weight across the population -- younger cohorts are substantially heavier than older cohorts regardless of their veteran status — and a substantively small but consistent, positive intra-cohort effect of veteran status.

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Presented in Poster Session 5: Adult Health and Mortality