Adolescent boys whose parents are deployed overseas have significantly higher rates of "impaired well being" than their civilian counterparts, according to a study based upon a 2008 Washington state health survey of school-age children.

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Adolescent boys whose military parents are deployed overseas have significantly higher rates of “impaired well being” than the children of civilians, according to a study based upon a 2008 Washington state health survey of school-age children.

The study, published Thursday in the American Journal of Public Health, analyzed the survey responses of nearly 600 Washington state children whose parents were deployed — part of a broader sampling of some 10,000 children who responded to the survey.

The lead author, Sarah Reed, carried out the study at the University of Washington while working on a master’s degree in public health that she completed in June 2010.

“Society needs to do more to help these families,” Reed said in an interview this week. “They deserve better.”

The children’s well being was assessed by how they responded to five quality-of-life questions. They were asked to rate on a scale of 0-10 how well they feel they get along with their parents, how much they feel alone in life, how much they feel good about themselves, how much they are satisfied with their lives, and how they feel about their future.

Based on the responses, adolescent sons of parents deployed overseas were more than twice as likely to have “impaired well being” than their civilian counterparts, the analysis shows.

The study also found higher rates of other troubling behavior, such as binge drinking, among the children of deployed parents.

“Our findings provide new information about the effects of the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan on young people,” wrote Reed and her co-authors. “Specifically, 8th-grade adolescent girls with parents deployed to combat appear to be at risk of depressed mood and thoughts of suicide, whereas their male counterparts are at increased risk of impaired well-being with respect to all of the outcomes we examined.”

The study built upon other research that indicates higher rates of stress among children whose parents are deployed. The military in recent years has sought to increase support for these children.

Hal Bernton: 206-464-2581 or hbernton@seattletimes.com