Gender differences among veterans deployed in support of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
BACKGROUND: The changing scope of women's roles in combat operations has led to growing interest in women's deployment experiences and post-deployment adjustment. OBJECTIVES: To quantify the gender-specific frequency of deployment stressors, including sexual and non-sexual harassment, lack of social support and combat exposure. To quantify gender-specific post-deployment mental health conditions and associations between deployment stressors and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), to inform the care of Veterans returning from the current conflicts. DESIGN: National mail survey of OEF/OIF Veterans randomly sampled within gender, with women oversampled. SETTING: The community. PARTICIPANTS: In total, 1,207 female and 1,137 male Veterans from a roster of all Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF) Veterans. Response rate was 48.6 %. MAIN MEASURES: Deployment stressors (including combat and harassment stress), PTSD, depression, anxiety and alcohol use, all measured via self-report. KEY RESULTS: Women were more likely to report sexual harassment (OR = 8.7, 95% CI: 6.9, 11) but less likely to report combat (OR = 0.62, 95 % CI: 0.50, 0.76). Women and men were equally likely to report symptoms consistent with probable PTSD (OR = 0.87, 95 % CI: 0.70, 1.1) and symptomatic anxiety (OR = 1.1, 9 5% CI: 0.86, 1.3). Women were more likely to report probable depression (OR = 1.3, 95 % CI: 1.1, 1.6) and less likely to report problematic alcohol use (OR = 0.59, 9 5% CI: 0.47, 0.72). With a five-point change in harassment stress, adjusted odds ratios for PTSD were 1.36 (95 % CI: 1.23, 1.52) for women and 1.38 (95 % CI: 1.19, 1.61) for men. The analogous associations between combat stress and PTSD were 1.31 (95 % CI: 1.24, 1.39) and 1.31 (95 % CI: 1.26, 1.36), respectively. CONCLUSIONS: Although there are important gender differences in deployment stressors-including women's increased risk of interpersonal stressors-and post-deployment adjustment, there are also significant similarities. The post-deployment adjustment of our nation's growing population of female Veterans seems comparable to that of our nation's male Veterans.
Street, AE; Gradus, JL; Giasson, HL; Vogt, D; Resick, PA
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