The Long-term Impact of War on Health in Northern Vietnam: Some Glimpses from a Recent Survey

Bussarawan TEERAWICHITCHAINAN, Singapore Management University
Kim Korinek


War is deemed a major threat to public health; yet, the long-term effects of war on individual health have rarely been examined in the context of developing countries. Based on data collected as a pilot follow-up to the Vietnam Longitudinal Survey, this study examines current health profiles of northern Vietnamese war survivors who entered early adulthood during the Vietnam War and now represent Vietnam's older adult population. To ascertain how war and military service in the early life course may have had long-term impacts on health status of Vietnam's current older adults, we compare multi-dimensional measures of health among veterans and nonveterans, and within these groups, regardless of their military service, between combatants and noncombatants. Multivariate results suggest that despite prolonged exposure to war, veterans and those who served in combat roles are not significantly different from their civilian and noncombatant counterparts on most health outcomes later in life. This is in contrast to American veterans who fought on the opposing side of the war. The near absence of differences in older adult health among northern Vietnamese with varying degrees of war involvement might be explained by the encompassing extent of war; the notion that time heals; and the hardiness and resilience against ill health that are by-products of shared struggle in war and a victorious outcome.