Complementary/integrative healthcare utilization in US Gulf-War era veterans
Descriptive analyses based on deployment history, combat exposure, and Gulf War Illness
Kelton, K., Young, J. R., Evans, M. K., Eshera, Y. M., Blakey, S. M., Mann, A. J. D., Pugh, M. J., Calhoun, P. S., Beckham, J. C., & Kimbrel, N. A. (2022). Complementary/integrative healthcare utilization in US Gulf-War era veterans: Descriptive analyses based on deployment history, combat exposure, and Gulf War Illness. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, 49, Article 101644. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ctcp.2022.101644
Complementary and integrative health (CIH) approaches have gained empirical support and are increasingly being utilized among veterans to treat a myriad of conditions. A cluster of medically unexplained chronic symptoms including fatigue, headaches, joint pain, indigestion, insomnia, dizziness, respiratory disorders, and memory problems, often referred to as Gulf War Illness (GWI) prominently affect US Gulf War era (GWE) veterans, yet little is known about CIH use within this population. Using data collected as part of a larger study (n = 1153), we examined the influence of demographic characteristics, military experiences, and symptom severity on CIH utilization, and utilization differences between GWE veterans with and without GWI. Over half of the sample (58.5%) used at least one CIH modality in the past six months. Women veterans, white veterans, and veterans with higher levels of education were more likely to use CIH. GWE veterans with a GWI diagnosis and higher GWI symptom severity were more likely to use at least one CIH treatment in the past six months. Over three quarters (82.7%) of veterans who endorsed using CIH to treat GWI symptoms reported that it was helpful for their symptoms. Almost three quarters (71.5%) of veterans indicated that they would use at least one CIH approach if it was available at VA. Results provide a deeper understanding of the likelihood and characteristics of veterans utilizing CIH to treat health and GWI symptoms and may inform expansion of CIH modalities for GWE veterans, particularly those with GWI.