Obesity in U.S. low-income Veterans: Prevalence, clinical characteristics, and homelessness

Abstract: OBJECTIVE: Obesity is associated with lower socioeconomic status. To date, however, scarce research has examined the prevalence, comorbidity, and incremental burden of obesity in relation to medical, psychiatric, functional, and homelessness measures among low-income veterans. METHODS: A nationally representative sample of 1004 low-income U.S. veterans was examined. Bivariate and multivariable analyses were conducted to assess relationships between obesity and medical and psychiatric comorbidities, functioning, and homelessness measures. RESULTS: The prevalence estimate of obesity among low-income U.S. veterans was 38.2% (confidence interval (CI): 34.2; 42.2), which is higher than previously reported for the general U.S. veteran population. It was particularly high among young, females with children. Obesity was associated with co-occurring medical (chronic pain, diabetes, sleep disorders, high blood pressure, heart disease) and psychiatric (trauma- and anxiety-related) conditions, poor functioning, and current psychiatric medication use. Veterans with obesity were less likely to have current savings and more likely to have current debt. They also were more likely to have experienced evictions and foreclosures and less likely to use active coping or positive reframing as a means of dealing with stressful situations. CONCLUSION: The prevalence of obesity among U.S. veterans is high. Specific demographic groups particularly vulnerable to developing obesity warrant targeted interventions. Modifying weight management programs, understanding coping styles, and assessing, monitoring, and treating obesity in low-income veterans may help improve overall health and quality of life in multiple domains.

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