Vietnam vets' health issues highlighted

  • 10/12/2015

Vietnam War veterans are more likely to suffer health problems like chronic kidney failure than their non-serving peers, new University of Otago research shows.

The researchers traced and studied the health records of almost 2800 of the 3400 New Zealanders who served in Vietnam between 1962 and 1971.

After comparing veterans' hospital admissions between 1988 and 2009 with those of similarly aged males in the general population, the researchers found an 18 percent increase in hospitalisations for the veteran group.

The hospitalisations that showed a two-fold or more increased risk between 2006 and 2009 were diabetes, retinal disease, phlebitis, pneumonia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), intestinal obstruction, other liver disease, chronic renal failure (CRF), skin infection and joint injury.

Veterans' rates of COPD were 300 cases compared to the 178 cases expected in the general population.

There were 461 cases of CRF compared to the 381 in their non-serving peers.

Lead researcher Associate Professor David McBride says both of those conditions have the potential to have high costs, both to the individual and the health system.

"Now that we know that Vietnam veterans are at greater risk of such conditions, we can put this knowledge to good use. For example, early detection and treatment of CRF may prevent veterans suffering end-stage kidney disease," he said.

The research has just been published in the British journal BMJ Open.