U.S. Military Women Exposed to More Combat Than Ever
THURSDAY, Jan. 19 (HealthDay News) -- Female American soldiers
in Iraq and Afghanistan have been involved in more combat than in
prior wars and have the same post-traumatic stress disorder rate as
men, a new study has found.
For the study, researchers looked at over 7,000 active-duty
soldiers who served in the war zones and found that 4 percent of
female soldiers reported killing, 9 percent reported witnessing
killing, 31 percent reported exposure to death and 7 percent
suffered a combat-related injury.
In comparison, 1 percent of female soldiers involved in the
1990-1991 Gulf War reported killing, 14 percent witnessed a death
and 2 percent suffered a combat-related injury, the investigators
For most categories of combat stress, the mental health effects
on male and female soldiers who served in Iraq and Afghanistan were
the same. Both had the same rate (18 percent) of post-traumatic
stress disorder (PTSD), but women injured in combat were more
likely to have PTSD than injured men.
Women were somewhat more likely to report depression symptoms,
while men were somewhat more likely to have a post-deployment
drinking problem, the University of California, San Francisco
(UCSF) researchers found.
Military sexual trauma -- defined as sexual assault or repeated
sexual harassment -- was reported by 12 percent of women and 1
percent of men. Military sexual trauma was strongly associated with
PTSD and depression in both women and men, according to the report
released online in advance of publication in a print issue of the
Journal of Psychiatric Research.
The findings have important implications for the Veterans
Affairs health care system, according to lead study author Shira
Maguen, an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at UCSF and a
clinical psychologist at the San Francisco VA Medical Center.
"If women are indeed being exposed to combat stressors at a higher rate than in prior eras, we have to be prepared to provide the services they need, and take into account the impact that these stressors can have on their mental health functioning," she said in a university news release.
"We also need to take a closer look at physical injury and its potential impact on women's psychological health," Maguen added.
The Office on Women's Health at the U.S. Department of Health
and Human Services has more about
women veterans and mental health.
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