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BK Hospital Discovers Link Between Behavioral Disorders and Poor Health Among Veterans

A new study from SUNY Downstate will aid in implementing early interventions and lifestyle modifications to improve veterans’ health.
SUNY Downstate Medical Center.

New research from The State University of New York's Downstate Health Sciences University Department of Psychiatry examines the correlation between genetic risk for psychiatric conditions and critical health outcomes among veterans.

The new study, Correlates of Risk for Disinhibited Behaviors in the Million Veteran Program Cohort, is critical to understanding common behavioral and medical conditions impacting veterans’ health.

Psychiatric conditions like ADHD, substance use disorders, and antisocial personality disorder, broadly referred to as externalizing disorders, have been found to overlap with several health outcomes expected among veteran populations. These include suicide, substance use disorders, and multiple chronic medical conditions.

To better understand this overlap, researchers measured genetic risk for externalizing disorders among 500,000 veterans in the Million Veteran Program — a national research program examining how genes, lifestyle, military experiences and exposures affect health and wellness in veterans.

“Preventing and treating serious health concerns among at-risk populations requires a thorough understanding of all factors contributing to these conditions. Our analysis within the Million Veteran Program Cohort explored the link between genetic risk for externalizing disorders and critically important health conditions impacting veteran populations,” said Dr. Peter B. Barr, who spearheaded the research. Barr is the social determinants of health lead at the Institute for Genomics in Health. Barr is also an assistant professor of psychiatry at SUNY. 

“These findings provide a broader understanding of persons at increased risk for an array of medical conditions and have the potential to help inform early intervention methods to improve the overall health of veterans in the United States. We’re proud to be a part of this important discovery and look forward to exploring it further in veterans’ health," Barr said.

Genetic risk factors for externalizing behaviors were found to be linked to several significant public health outcomes, including psychiatric conditions and chronic medical ailments that are often exacerbated by substance misuse, such as smoking, heavy alcohol consumption, and intravenous drug use.

These findings, combined with social determinants of health and other clinical risk factors, can identify individuals at heightened risk for various medical conditions, allowing for crucial early interventions and lifestyle modifications to improve health.

The complete study, published by JAMA Psychiatry, can be accessed here.