Impact of combat exposure on mental health trajectories in later life: Longitudinal findings from the VA Normative Aging Study.

Cross-sectional studies have shown contradictory results concerning the impact of combat exposure on mental health in later life. We examined whether combat exposure influences trajectories of mental health symptoms in older male veterans using longitudinal data collected from 1985 to 1991 in the Veterans Affairs Normative Aging Study (N = 1,105, age range = 40—86 years in 1985). Noncombat veterans showed little systematic change in depressive and anxiety symptoms with age, whereas combat veterans showed U-shaped nonlinear changes, with higher levels in midlife decreasing until the mid-60s and then increasing again in the 70s and 80s. These findings support the notion that military service, and especially combat exposure, is a hidden variable in aging research. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)