, Volume 28, Issue 2 Supplement, pp 556-562,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 27 Jun 2013

Gender Differences Among Veterans Deployed in Support of the Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq

ABSTRACT

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.