Stressful Life Changes and Their Relationship to Nutrition-Related Health Outcomes Among US Army Soldiers

J Prim Prev. 2020 Apr;41(2):171-189. doi: 10.1007/s10935-020-00583-3.

Abstract

Stressful life changes may tax people's adaptive capacity. We sought to determine if and when experiences of stressful life changes were associated with increased odds of adverse nutrition-related health outcomes among US Army soldiers relative to those who did not experience the same stressful life change. An additional aim was to determine which stressful life changes had the greatest association with these outcomes and if there were gender differences in the magnitude of the associations. Stressful life changes studied included: changes in marital status, combat deployment or return from deployment, relocation, adding a child, change in rank, change in occupation, and development of a physical limitation to duty. Using longitudinal data from the Stanford Military Data Repository, which represents all active-duty soldiers aged 17-62 between 2011 and 2014 (n = 827,126), we employed an event history analysis to examine associations between stressful life changes and a subsequent diagnosis of hyperlipidemia, substantial weight gain, and weight-related separation from the Army. Marriage was associated with an increase in the odds of substantial weight gain 3 months later for both men and women. Developing a physical duty limitation was associated with an increase in the odds of a hyperlipidemia diagnosis 2 months later for both men and women, as was substantial weight gain 2 months later. Stressful life changes were also associated with increased odds of nutrition-related health outcomes, although we found gender differences in the magnitude of the associations. Findings could be used to mitigate the effects of stress on health by health professionals.

Keywords: Event history analysis; Hyperlipidemia; Military; Stress; Weight gain; Women.