Kissimmee, Florida - Researchers from the Naval Health Research Center (NHRC) shared study findings about unique factors associated with combat-injured service members' long-term quality of life, an emerging area of research, during the Military Health System Research Symposium (MHRSRS) August 28.

"To date, over 52,000 service members have been injured post-9/11," said Michael Galarneau, director of operational readiness at NHRC and principal investigator for the Wounded Warrior Recovery Project (WWRP) that led the study. "Little is known about the longer-term, health-related quality of life following combat injury, which is why the WWRP was initiated."

The WWRP is a 15-year, population-based study designed to examine the long-term impact of mild to severe injuries on health-related quality of life (HRQoL) among U.S. service members. WWRP researchers have been investigating how demographic, military service-related, injury, and mental health factors contribute to overall HRQoL among injured service members.

According to Galarneau, his research team found that WWRP participants' HRQoL was, on average, was higher than depressed civilian inpatients and veterans, but lower than other categories of civilian populations, including young injured men from another U.S. population-based survey. The study also found that post-injury HRQoL is related to service experience, injury characteristics, demographic factors, and, most strongly, to current mental health status.

"These findings underscore the significance of quality of life issues long after the injury has occurred and points to the importance of mental health treatment for our wounded warriors," said Galarneau. "Our findings also indicate that we may need to evaluate current best practices for longer-term screenings, the timing of interventions, and ongoing treatments. As we discover more about the long-lasting impact of combat-injury through research, we can adjust not only how we care for injured service members, but also how long we provide that care to ensure the best possible outcomes for them."

In the current study, researchers analyzed data from 3,414 active duty and veteran service members injured during combat operations who are participating in the WWRP. They were invited to participate in the study and complete web-based surveys every six months. Potential participants are identified through the Expeditionary Medical Encounter Database (EMED), a high-quality data repository developed by scientists at NHRC with casualty injury and clinical treatment data from point of injury through recovery and rehabilitation.

The goal of the WWRP is to share their findings with health care providers and support efforts to improve the care, treatment, and interventions for wounded warriors, ultimately reducing the impact of injury, speeding up recovery, and contributing to improved quality of life. In carrying out its mission, WWRP partners with the U.S. Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery (BUMED) and the Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs Center of Excellence for Extremity Trauma and Amputation (EACE). Participants include active duty and veterans from the Navy, Marine Corps, Army, Air Force, Reserve, and National Guard.

As the DoD's premier deployment health research center, NHRC's cutting-edge research and development is used to optimize the operational health and readiness of the nation's armed forces. In proximity to more than 95,000 active duty service members, world-class universities, and industry partners, NHRC sets the standard in joint ventures, innovation, and translational research.