Physical health, behavioral and emotional functioning in children of gulf war veterans

Life Sci. 2021 Oct 1:282:119777. doi: 10.1016/j.lfs.2021.119777. Epub 2021 Jun 28.


Objective: We examined whether the prevalence of medical and behavioral conditions is higher in children of deployed veterans (DVs) versus non-deployed veterans (NDVs) after the 1991 Gulf War.

Methods: We examined 1387 children of 737 veterans. Children ages 2-18 had physical exams and parental reports of physical history and behavior.

Results: Physical health was analyzed using GEE models. Behavioral health [total, internalizing, and externalizing behavior problems (TBP, IBP, EBP)] was analyzed with mixed-effects regression models. Analyses were conducted by age group (2-3, 4-11, 12-18), and gender (ages 4-11, 12-18). Children of DVs ages 2-3 had significantly worse dentition (13.9% vs. 4.8%, P = 0.03) and more EBP {least square means (lsmeans) 54.31 vs. 47.59, P = 0.02}. Children of DVs ages 4-11 had significantly more obesity (18.8% vs. 12.7%, P = 0.02). Among children 4-11, male children of DVs had significantly more TBP (lsmeans 70.68 vs. 57.34, P = 0.003), IBP (lsmeans 63.59 vs. 56.16, P = 0.002) and EBP (lsmeans 61.60 vs. 52.93, P = 0.03), but female children did not. For children ages 12-18, male children of DVs had more EBP (lsmeans 63.73 vs. 43.51, P = 0.008), while female children of DVs had fewer EBP (lsmeans 45.50 vs. 50.48, P = 0.02). Veteran military characteristics and mental health, and children's social status and health, including obesity, predicted children's TBP for one or more age groups.

Conclusions: Children of DVs experienced worse dentition, greater obesity, and more behavioral problems compared to NDV children, suggesting adverse health effects associated with parental deployment in need of further exploration.

Keywords: Children; Gulf war; Military family.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child Health*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Emotions
  • Female
  • Gulf War
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology
  • Military Family*
  • Quality of Life*
  • Veterans