Trajectory of self-rated health after combat-related injury

Injury. 2021 Jul;52(7):1721-1726. doi: 10.1016/j.injury.2021.04.026. Epub 2021 Apr 9.


Background: The U.S. military conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan yielded the most combat casualties since Vietnam. With more service members than ever surviving their wounds, prospective research on factors related to long-term, patient-reported outcomes, including self-rated health (SRH), has increased importance. This study's objective was to use preinjury and postinjury SRH measures to identify trajectories and predictors of SRH after combat-related injury.

Methods: The Wounded Warrior Recovery Project was queried for U.S. military personnel with combat-related injuries from Iraq or Afghanistan between 2004 and 2011. A single-item measure was used to assess SRH once prior to injury and twice after injury, and responses included excellent, very good, good, fair, or poor. Only those with good or better preinjury SRH levels were included. SRH trajectories were identified and defined. Multinomial logistic regression examined the association between injury-specific characteristics, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and SRH trajectory.

Results: The study sample included 1,093 military personnel. Overall, 4 SRH trajectories were identified: (1) 56.7% resilient (preinjury SRH level was maintained throughout follow-up), (2) 9.4% recovered (SRH declined on first postinjury measure then returned to preinjury level), (3) 22.9% delayed (SRH declined only on second postinjury measure), and (4) 11.0% chronic (SRH declined on first postinjury measure and did not return to preinjury level). In multinomial logistic regression and relative to the resilient group, screening PTSD positive, serious-severe injury severity, and lower extremity injury predicted membership in the recovered and chronic groups, whereas back injury predicted membership in the chronic group only.

Conclusion: This is the first study to examine long-term SRH trajectory following combat-related injury, finding that a majority of military personnel remain at their preinjury health levels of good or better. Decreases in postinjury SRH were associated with physical and psychological factors, which reinforces the need for a multidisciplinary approach to care.

Keywords: Combat-related injury; Military; Self-rated health.

MeSH terms

  • Afghan Campaign 2001-
  • Afghanistan
  • Humans
  • Iraq
  • Iraq War, 2003-2011
  • Military Personnel*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic* / epidemiology