Health behavior profiles and association with mental health status among US active-duty service members

Bolanle Olapeju, Zoé Mistrale Hendrickson, Patrice Shanahan, Omar Mushtaq, Anwar E Ahmed

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


INTRODUCTION: This study investigated the clustering of health behaviors among US active duty servicemembers (ADSM) into risk profiles and explored the association between these profiles with ADSM sociodemographic characteristics and mental health status.

METHODS: This study utilized secondary data from the 2018 Health Related Behaviors Survey (HRBS), a Department of Defense (DoD) self-administered online survey. Health behaviors included physical activity, screen use, sleep habits, tobacco/substance use, alcohol drinking, preventive health care seeking and condom use at last sex/having multiple sexual partners. Past-year mental health status was measured using the Kessler Screening Scale for Psychological Distress (K6). Latent class analysis (LCA) on health behaviors was used to cluster ADSMs into risk profiles. Multivariable logistic model was used to examine whether ADSM characteristics and mental health status were associated with ADSMs' risk profiles.

RESULTS: The LCA identified a four-class model that clustered ADSMs into the following sub-groups: (1) Risk Inclined (14.4%), (2) High Screen Users (51.1%), (3) Poor Sleepers (23.9%) and (4) Risk Averse (10.6). Over a tenth (16.4%) of ADSMs were categorized as having serious psychological distress. Being male, younger, less educated, in the Army, Marine Corps or Navy were associated with higher odds of being Risk Inclined (AOR ranging from 1.26 to 2.42). Compared to the reference group of Risk Adverse ADSMs, those categorized as Risk Inclined (AOR: 8.30; 95% CI: 5.16-13.36), High Screen Users (AOR: 2.44; 95% CI: 1.56-3.82) and Poor Sleepers (AOR: 5.26; 95% CI: 3.38-8.19) had significantly higher odds of having serious psychological distress.

DISCUSSION: Study findings suggest opportunities to tailor behavioral and health promotion interventions for each of the distinct risk profiles. For example, ADSM described as Risk Inclined may benefit from preventive mental health services. Solutions for ADSM described as Poor Sleepers may include education on sleep hygiene; instituting duty schedules; and shifting military cultural norms to promote sleep hygiene as a pathway to optimal performance and thus military readiness. ADSM with low-risk behavior profiles such as those described as Risk Averse may prove beneficial in the roll-out of interventions as they act as peer-educators or mentors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1324663
JournalFrontiers in Public Health
StatePublished - 2024


  • Male
  • Humans
  • Female
  • Health Behavior
  • Military Personnel/psychology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Exercise
  • Health Status


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