The long-term impact of war on health

Year: 2016 HiCN Working Paper No. 216

The toll of warfare is often assessed in the short run and in terms of mortality. Other aspects of health have received limited attention, especially after warfare ends. This paper estimates the impact of exposure to US Air Force bombing during 1965-1975 on the disability status of individuals in Vietnam in 2009. Using national census data and an instrumental variable approach, the paper finds a positive and statistically significant impact of war time bombing exposure on district level disability rates about forty years after the end of the war. A ten percent increase in bombing intensity approximately leads to a one percent increase in the prevalence of severe disability at the district level. Impacts are highest for severe disability and among persons born before 1976. Smaller yet significant positive impacts are observed among persons born after the war. Results suggest that the toll of warfare on health persists decades later.