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The Gerontologist Supplement Highlights VA Research on Health Issues Affecting Older Women Veterans

January 22, 2016

This special Supplement of The Gerontologist addresses important VA research priorities that focus on the needs of older women Veterans. In 2010, a women's health research agenda was developed to guide VA research initiatives across the life span of women Veterans. In the past decade alone, the number of women seeking care at VA facilities has doubled. Moreover, using data from the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) - a 22-year study to identify gender-specific risk factors for morbidity, death, and disability - Weitlauf and colleagues found that Veterans had a 13% higher all-cause mortality relative to non-Veterans (Women's Health Issues, 2015). This triggered important secondary analyses on the health of older women that were sponsored by HSR&D and the Office of Women's Health Services. Findings are discussed in this Supplement that features 13 articles on a range of topics related to women Veterans, including:

  • LaCroix and colleagues found that women Veterans aged 80 and older reported significantly lower perceived health, physical function, life satisfaction, social support, quality of life, and purpose in life compared with non-Veterans. Also, among WHI participants who were aged 80 and older, women with prior military service were more likely to reside in a place with special services for the elderly.
  • Washingtonand colleagues compared longitudinal trajectories of physical activity and sedentary behavior between Veteran and non-Veteran women. Although Veterans had higher baseline physical activity than non-Veterans, they had greater declines in physical activity over time.
  • Gray and colleagues examined the impact of chronic conditions on physical function among Veterans and non-Veteran women with diabetes. Among women with diabetes, having any additional chronic condition accelerated the decline in physical function - an effect that was even more pronounced among Veterans.