Journal of General Internal Medicine

, Volume 29, Issue 1, pp 104–109

Sexual Violence and Mental Health Symptoms Among National Guard and Reserve Soldiers


    • Department of EpidemiologyColumbia University
  • Karestan C. Koenen
    • Department of EpidemiologyColumbia University
  • Gregory H. Cohen
    • Department of EpidemiologyColumbia University
  • Robert Ursano
    • Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences
  • Robert K. Gifford
    • Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences
  • Carol S. Fullerton
    • Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences
  • Sandro Galea
    • Department of EpidemiologyColumbia University
Original Research

DOI: 10.1007/s11606-013-2555-5

Cite this article as:
Walsh, K., Koenen, K.C., Cohen, G.H. et al. J GEN INTERN MED (2014) 29: 104. doi:10.1007/s11606-013-2555-5



Reserve and National Guard (NG) soldiers report disproportionate mental health problems relative to active duty military upon returning from the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. However, few studies have examined whether exposure to particular types of traumatic events (e.g., lifetime sexual violence) is associated with this increased burden of psychopathology.


The current study examined the prevalence of lifetime sexual violence exposure as well as the adjusted odds and population attributable fraction of psychopathology associated with sexual violence in a large sample of male and female Reserve and NG soldiers.


Baseline structured telephone interviews were conducted in 2009.


1,030 Reserve (23 % female) and 973 NG (15 % female) soldiers.


Four items assessed lifetime and deployment-related sexual violence. Probable lifetime and past-year posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression were assessed with the PTSD Checklist and the Patient Health Questionnaire, respectively.


Lifetime sexual violence prevalence was 37.4 % and 27.6 % among Reserve and NG women, and 4.3 % and 3.7 % among Reserve and NG men, respectively. Recent deployment-related sexual violence ranged from 1.4 to 2.6 % for women and 0 % for men. Regression analyses indicated that the adjusted odds of probable past-year and lifetime PTSD and depression were 1.2 to 3.5 times greater among those reporting sexual violence relative to non-victims. The proportion of probable lifetime PTSD and depression attributable to sexual violence was 45.2 % and 16.6 %, respectively, in the Reserves, and 10.3 % and 6.2 %, respectively, in the NG.


Lifetime sexual violence prevalence was high among female soldiers, with approximately one-third of Reserve and National Guard women reporting a history. The majority of sexual violence was not related to the most recent deployment; however, sexual violence contributed to a high burden of psychopathology. Findings emphasize a need to screen for lifetime sexual violence and associated mental disorders in military samples.


reservenational guardsexual violencePTSDdepression

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© Society of General Internal Medicine 2013