Veterans with lower socioeconomic status sleep less, may suffer related health issues

sph | December 23, 2014

Regularly sleeping fewer than six hours per night has been linked to a number of health problems including cardiovascular disease, poor mental health, and other life-threatening diseases.

Now, new research published in the American Journal of Public Health from the School of Public Health at the University of Minnesota highlights socioeconomic disparities in sleep duration among veterans who served in the U.S. Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Research found these veterans are at an increased risk of not getting enough sleep, and suffering the resulting consequences.

To learn more about short sleep duration and its risk factors, Rachel Widome, Ph.D., M.H.S., assistant professor and social epidemiologist in the U of M School of Public Health asked approximately 900 veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan since October 2001 to respond to a mailed health behavior survey.

The survey found:

  • More than 45 percent of sampled Iraq and Afghanistan veterans reported an average of six or fewer hours of sleep per night.
  • Several household economic factors were associated with short sleep duration, including fewer financial assets and food insecurity, or lack of sufficient food.
  • Subjective social status, or a person’s sense of where they stand in the social hierarchy, was associated with sleep where veterans who reported they had lower social standing were more at risk for short sleep duration.
  • Veterans who reported they felt they were treated worse than non-veterans were also more likely to report shorter sleep duration.

“Poverty and perceived discrimination can be deep and unrelenting stressors,” said Widome. “Getting adequate sleep is important for health and wellbeing, but veterans are at risk for being in sleep debt. One way to promote more healthful sleep might be to focus on helping veterans navigate various social and economic stressors which can contribute to stress and diminish sleep.”

~ Originally posted on Health Talk by Matt DePoint, Academic Health Center

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