Introduction Among the nearly 21 million military veterans living in the United States, 64.0% of women and 76.1% of men are overweight or obese, higher rates than in the civilian population (56.9% of women and 69.9% of men). Attributes of the residential environment are linked to obesity. The objective of this study was to characterize the residential environments of the US veteran population with respect to availability of food and recreational venues. Methods We used American Community Survey data to determine the concentration of veterans (the percentage of veterans among the adult population) in all continental US census tracts in 2013, and we used proprietary data to construct measures of availability of food and recreational venues per census tract. Using descriptive statistics and ordinary least-squares regression, we examined associations between the concentration of veterans per census tract and those residential environmental features. Results In census tracts with high concentrations of veterans, residents had, on average, 0.5 (interquartile range, 0-0.8) supermarkets within a 1-mile radius, while residents in census tracts with low concentrations of veterans had 3.2 (interquartile range, 0.6-3.7) supermarkets. Patterns were similar for grocery and convenience stores, fast food restaurants, parks, and commercial fitness facilities. In adjusted analyses controlling for census-tract-level covariates, veteran concentration remained strongly negatively associated with availability of those food and recreational venues. In nonmetropolitan tracts, adjusted associations were greatly attenuated and even positive. Conclusion Where veterans live is strongly associated with availability of food outlets providing healthy (and unhealthy) foods and with recreational venues, raising questions about the contributions of veterans' residential environments to their high obesity rates. Additional research is needed to address those questions.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Health Policy
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health