According to a recent study from the University of Missouri School of Medicine, American military veterans are the least likely to seek treatment for the most common health ailments in their communities, such as sleep and alcohol use issues.
The data also demonstrate a correlation between veterans of color’s desire to seek aid and the occurrence of prejudice. The survey comprised 334 veterans from 46 states, with 66% being men and more than 70% identifying as people of colour.
Insomnia, hazardous alcohol use, drug use, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and depression were among the 15 medical disorders screened for by participants. They also ranked the importance of each health condition’s therapy and their readiness to seek treatment.
“The majority of participants indicated they would be willing to seek treatment for both physical and mental health problems. However, they reported significantly greater willingness to seek treatment for physical than mental health conditions,” said principal investigator Mary Beth Miller, PhD, assistant professor of clinical psychiatry at the MU School of Medicine.
The study found that people were most eager to seek therapy for chronic pain, chronic medical illnesses, and physical brain damage. Alcohol or drug usage and sleep difficulties elicited the least willingness.
“We speculate that because sleep and alcohol problems are common, they may be normalized or minimized to the extent that they are no longer viewed as problems – or at least problems that warrant treatment,” Miller said.
The study also examined the role discrimination plays in seeking treatment for physical or mental health problems. More frequent experiences of discrimination were associated with less willingness to seek treatment for physical or mental health problems.
“Among veterans of color, discriminatory experiences were associated with less willingness to seek treatment, but only among those who denied use of other strategies for coping with stress,” Miller said. “Empowering patients to utilize whatever healthy coping methods they have available may mitigate the negative impact of discriminatory experiences on treatment-seeking.”