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Illicit drug use and self-reported vision loss among military service members or veterans


Introduction Little is known about differences in vision loss prevalence among service members or veterans (SMVs) and civilians; further, no study has compared vision loss risk factors in these two populations. As such, we seek to fill this gap in the literature.

Methods In this cross sectional study, we obtained data on 106 SMVs and 1572 civilians from the 2013–2018 National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys. We compared the prevalence of or mean values of vision loss risk factors between SMVs and civilians using the Wald χ2 statistic or Kruskal-Wallis test. Further, we examined the relative strength of 17 vision loss risk factors in predicting self-reported vision loss via Firth’s logistic regression.

Results SMVs had a significantly higher prevalence of illicit drug use (20.75% vs 13.62%) and HIV (1.89% vs 0.41%), while civilians had a higher prevalence of poor dietary habits (7.61% vs 13.21%). SMVs also had higher mean values of systolic blood pressure (125.85 vs 122.53 mmHg), pack years of cigarette smoking (8.29 vs 4.25), and sedentary minutes per day (379.15 vs 337.07 min). More SMVs (8.49%) self-reported vision loss than civilians (4.48%). After adjustment for covariates, illicit drug use (adjusted β coefficient=0.72, p=0.02) was associated with self-reported vision loss.

Conclusions This study indicates that self-reported vision loss among SMVs is more prevalent than among civilians, and vision loss in SMVs is associated with severe or prolonged illicit drug use.

  • health informatics
  • epidemiology
  • HIV & AIDS
  • ophthalmology
  • substance misuse

Data availability statement

Data are available in a public, open access repository. Data are available from the following website:

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