To determine whether a 6- or 12-month look-back period affected rates of reported social risks in a social risk survey for use in the Veterans Health Administration and to assess associations of social risks with overall health and mental health.
Cross-sectional survey of respondents randomized to 6- or 12-month look-back period.
Data Sources and Study Setting
Online survey with a convenience sample of Veterans in June and July 2021.
Data Collection/Extraction Methods
Veteran volunteers were recruited by email to complete a survey assessing social risks, including financial strain, adult caregiving, childcare, food insecurity, housing, transportation, internet access, loneliness/isolation, stress, discrimination, and legal issues. Outcomes included self-reported overall health and mental health. Chi-squared tests compared the prevalence of reported social risks between 6- and 12-month look-back periods. Spearman correlations assessed associations among social risks. Bivariate and multivariable logistic regression models estimated associations between social risks and fair/poor overall and mental health.
Of 3418 Veterans contacted, 1063 (31.10%) responded (87.11% male; 85.61% non-Hispanic White; median age = 70, interquartile range [IQR] = 61–74). Prevalence of most reported social risks did not significantly differ by look-back period. Most social risks were weakly intercorrelated (median |r| = 0.24, IQR = 0.16-0.31). Except for legal issues, all social risks were associated with higher odds of fair/poor overall health and mental health in bivariate models. In models containing all significant social risks from bivariate models, adult caregiving and stress remained significant predictors of overall health; food insecurity, housing, loneliness/isolation, and stress remained significant for mental health.
Six- and 12-month look-back periods yielded similar rates of reported social risks. Although most individual social risks are associated with fair/poor overall and mental health, when examined together, only adult caregiving, stress, loneliness/isolation, food, and housing remain significant.