Health effects of combat: a life-course perspective

Annu Rev Public Health. 2009:30:123-36. doi: 10.1146/annurev.publhealth.031308.100147.


Armed combat (also termed war or armed conflict) has profound direct and indirect impacts on the long-term physical and mental health of both military personnel and noncombatant civilians. Although most research has focused on immediate and short-term health consequences of war, an increasing number of studies have focused on the long-term health consequences for both veterans of military service and noncombatant civilians. However, these long-term studies focus almost entirely on posttraumatic stress disorder and other mental health problems; relatively few long-term studies have focused on physical injuries due to war and the impact of those injuries on relationships, work, and other aspects of life. This article reviews illustrative examples of the existing literature on these long-term health consequences of war, focusing not only on military veterans of several different armed conflicts but also on noncombatant civilian populations, including spouses and children of military veterans as well as refugees and internally displaced persons. Public health professionals can help address these problems.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Combat Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Combat Disorders / psychology
  • Family Health*
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology
  • Mental Health
  • Military Personnel / psychology*
  • Military Personnel / statistics & numerical data
  • Refugees / psychology
  • Refugees / statistics & numerical data
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / epidemiology*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology
  • Veterans / psychology
  • Veterans / statistics & numerical data
  • Warfare*