Can social policy influence socioeconomic disparities? Korean War GI Bill eligibility and markers of depression

Ann Epidemiol. 2016 Feb;26(2):129-135.e3. doi: 10.1016/j.annepidem.2015.12.003. Epub 2015 Dec 17.


Purpose: The Korean War GI Bill provided socioeconomic benefits to veterans; however, its association with health is unclear; we hypothesize GI Bill eligibility is associated with fewer depressive symptoms and smaller disparities.

Methods: Data from 246 Korean War GI Bill eligible veterans and 240 nonveterans from the Health and Retirement Study were matched on birth year, southern birth, race, height, and childhood health using coarsened exact matching. Number of depressive symptoms in 2010 (average age = 78 years) was assessed using a modified, validated Center for Epidemiologic Studies-Depression Scale, dichotomized to reflect elevated depressive symptoms. Regression analyses were stratified into low (at least one parent < 8 years schooling/missing data, n = 167) or high (both parents ≥ 8 years schooling, n = 319) childhood socioeconomic status (cSES) groups.

Results: Korean War GI Bill eligibility predicted fewer depressive symptoms among individuals from low cSES backgrounds [β = -0.64, 95% confidence interval (CI) = (-1.18, -0.09), P = .022]. Socioeconomic disparities were smaller among veterans than nonveterans for number of depressive symptoms [β = -0.76, 95% CI = (-1.33, -0.18), P = .010] and elevated depressive symptoms [β = -11.7, 95% CI = (-8.2, -22.6), P = .035].

Conclusions: Korean War GI Bill eligibility predicted smaller socioeconomic disparities in depression markers.

Keywords: Depression; GI Bill; Health disparities; Korean War; Lifecourse; Socio economic status; Veterans.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Depression / epidemiology*
  • Health Status Disparities*
  • Humans
  • Korean War*
  • Male
  • Public Policy*
  • Residence Characteristics
  • Risk Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Veterans / statistics & numerical data*