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Why old soldiers cannot be allowed to simply fade away: life course epidemiology of war
  1. Rosalind J Wright1,2
  1. 1
    The Channing Laboratory, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  2. 2
    Department of Environment Health, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  1. Rosalind J Wright, Channing Laboratory, Harvard Medical School, 181 Longwood Avenue, Boston MA 02115, USA; rerjw{at}

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Ikin and colleagues’1 research findings published in this issue of JECH demonstrate all too clearly why old soldiers cannot be allowed to simply fade away (see page 359). As these authors summarise in their introduction, the public health literature has increasingly documented both the short- and long-term effects of war on mental and physical disorders in military veterans. Their current work highlights how the impact of war may be even greater when health is not defined as merely the absence of disease. This is reflected through the World Health Organization (WHO) definition of health as a state of complete physical, mental, social and spiritual wellbeing. These investigators studied a sample of 6062 living veterans (aged 65 years and older) of the Korean War in Australia compared to 1506 similarly aged Australian men who did not serve in the conflict. Elderly Korean War veterans reported significantly lower life satisfaction and quality of life compared to their civilian counterparts some five decades after military service. Those with increasingly severe combat exposure were most greatly affected. Military service was associated with veterans’ adverse ratings on multiple domains of the quality of life scale (eg physical health, psychological …

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  • Competing interests: None declared.

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