Skip to main content

Table 1 Characteristics of soldiers with chronic pain and VHA linkage after separating from the military (N = 138,206)

From: Predictors of Veterans Health Administration utilization and pain persistence among soldiers treated for postdeployment chronic pain in the Military Health System

  Linked to VHA  
No (n = 29,019) Yes (n = 109,187) P
Demographics and Military History
 Age, median (IQR), y 27.0 (22–36) 26.0 (22–35) <  0.001
 Female sex, No. (%) 3475 (12.0) 13,931 (12.8) <  0.001
 Race/ethnicity, No. (%)    <  0.001
  White, not Hispanic 18,101 (62.5) 60,961 (55.9)  
  Black, not Hispanic 4124 (14.2) 22,144 (20.3)  
  Hispanic 2808 (9.7) 11,418 (10.5)  
  Other 3935 (13.6) 14,491 (13.3)  
 Marital status, No. (%)    <  0.001
  Married 18,684 (64.4) 70,900 (64.9)  
  Never Married 8531 (29.4) 30,761 (28.2)  
  Other 1804 (6.2) 7526 (6.9)  
 Index cohort, No. (%)    0.015
  2008 6169 (21.3) 22,980 (21.0)  
  2009 8756 (30.2) 33,396 (30.6)  
  2010 7615 (26.2) 28,504 (26.1)  
  2011 3565 (12.3) 13,521 (12.4)  
  2012 1932 (6.7) 7392 (6.8)  
  2013 712 (2.5) 2600 (2.4)  
  2014 270 (0.9) 794 (0.7)  
 Rank, No. (%)    <  0.001
  Enlisted 24,614 (84.8) 100,982 (92.5)  
  Warrant officer 937 (3.2) 2051 (1.9)  
  Commissioned Officer 3466 (11.9) 6149 (5.6)  
 Days deployed before index, median (IQR) a 0.0 (0.0–2.97) 0.0 (0.0–3.32) <  0.001
 Days deployed after index, median (IQR) a 0.01 (0.01–1.13) 0.01 (0.01–0.74) <  0.001
 Reason for separating from the military, No. (%)    <  0.001
  Expiration of enlistment 7287 (25.1) 24,043 (22.0)  
  Disability 5607 (19.3) 40,083 (36.7)  
  Retirement 7354 (25.3) 20,237 (18.5)  
  Misconduct 1872 (6.5) 4278 (3.9)  
  Poor performance 2914 (10.0) 11,352 (10.4)  
  Other 3985 (13.7) 9194 (8.4)  
 Days after index deployment to separation, mean (SD) 1128 (640) 1099 (616) <  0.001
Military Health System Clinical History
 Years of observation in MHS, median (IQR) 4.25 (2.50–5.75) 4.50 (2.75–6.00) <  0.001
 Chronic pain categories, No. (%) b
  Peripheral & central nervous system disorders 842 (2.9) 4463 (4.1) <  0.001
  Osteoarthritis 1181 (4.1) 5178 (4.7) <  0.001
  Back & neck disorders 12,082 (41.6) 53,462 (49.0) <  0.001
  Headaches & migraines 2858 (9.8) 17,423 (16.0) <  0.001
  Non-traumatic joint disorders 13,616 (46.9) 54,444 (49.9) <  0.001
  Other musculoskeletal disorders 12,173 (41.9) 47,548 (43.5) <  0.001
  Visceral & pelvic disorders 2211 (7.6) 9717 (8.9) <  0.001
  Wounds & injuries 2261 (7.8) 9371 (8.6) <  0.001
  Acute & post-operative diagnoses, trauma 151 (0.5) 1049 (1.0) <  0.001
  Other diagnoses associated with pain 40 (0.1) 151 (0.1) 1.000
  Chronic pain by ICD definition 6778 (23.4) 35,732 (32.7) <  0.001
 Number of chronic pain categories, No. (%)    <  0.001
  one 14,126 (48.7) 39,542 (36.2)  
  two 7510 (25.9) 28,151 (25.8)  
  three 3564 (12.3) 16,669 (15.3)  
  four or more 3819 (13.2) 24,825 (22.7)  
 Highest reported pain level, No. (%)    <  0.001
  None (0) 1090 (3.8) 2394 (2.2)  
  Low (1–3) 1794 (6.2) 4105 (3.8)  
  Moderate (4–6) 8256 (28.5) 25,420 (23.3)  
  Severe (7–10) 17,339 (59.8) 75,366 (69.0)  
  Unknown 540 (1.9) 1902 (1.7)  
 Mental disorders, No. (%) b    
  Adjustment disorder 10,817 (37.3) 55,406 (50.7) <  0.001
  Depressive disorders 7519 (25.9) 42,395 (38.8) <  0.001
  Anxiety disorders 8438 (29.1) 47,131 (43.2) <  0.001
  Posttraumatic stress disorder 5101 (17.6) 34,762 (31.8) <  0.001
  Traumatic brain injury 6626 (22.8) 34,167 (31.3) <  0.001
  Alcohol use disorder 4004 (13.8) 19,896 (18.2) <  0.001
  Substance use disorder 4099 (14.1) 18,813 (17.2) <  0.001
 Used mental health services, No. (%) 19,854 (68.4) 88,108 (80.7) <  0.001
 Used SUD services, No. (%) 1802 (6.2) 8513 (7.8) <  0.001
 Used NPT for pain, No. (%) 22,191 (76.5) 89,344 (81.8) <  0.001
 Number of days with NPT for pain, median (IQR) c 2.29 (0.20–6.72) 3.29 (0.67–8.67) <  0.001
 Days supply opioids c, median (IQR) 3.70 (0.71–12.7) 6.77 (1.67–24.0) <  0.001
 Days supply tramadol c, median (IQR) 0.0 (0.0–3.33) 0.0 (0.0–8.0) <  0.001
  1. ‘Linkage to VHA’ was defined as enrolled and utilized VHA services after separating from the military. Categories are mutually exclusive, unless otherwise indicated. The P-value was based on the chi-square test for categorical variables and the nonparametric Mann-Whitney test for all continuous variables, except for “Days after index deployment to separation” which was normally distributed and tested with a t-test
  2. Abbreviations: VHA Veterans Health Administration, MHS Military Heath System, ICD International Classification of Diseases, SUD Substance Use Disorder, NPT Nonpharmacological Treatment
  3. a Expressed per 100 days
  4. b Not mutually exclusive
  5. c Expressed per year, averaged over the length of each service member’s observation window in the MHS