Gender Differences in Combat-Related Stressors and Their Associations with Postdeployment Mental Health in a Nationally Representative Sample of U.S. OEF/OIF Veterans


Vogt, Dawne, Rachel Vaughn, Mark E. Glickman, Mark Schultz, Mari-Lynn Drainoni, Rani Elwy, and Susan Eisen. 2011. "Gender Differences in Combat-related Stressors and Their Association with Postdeployment Mental Health in a Nationally Representative Sample of U.S. OEF/OIF Veterans." Journal of Abnormal Psychology 120 (4): 797-806.

Authors: Dawne Vogt, Rachel Vaughn, Mark E. Glickman, Mark Schultz, Mari-Lynn Drainoni, Rani Elwy, Susan Eisen


Though the broader literature suggests that women may be more vulnerable to the effects of trauma exposure, most available studies on combat trauma have relied on samples in which women's combat exposure is limited and analyses that do not directly address gender differences in associations between combat exposure and postdeployment mental health. Female service members' increased exposure to combat in Afghanistan and Iraq provides a unique opportunity to evaluate gender differences in different dimensions of combat-related stress and associated consequence for postdeployment mental health. The current study addressed these research questions in a representative sample of female and male U.S. veterans who had returned from deployment to Afghanistan or Iraq within the previous year. As expected, women reported slightly less exposure than men to most combat-related stressors, but higher exposure to other stressors (i.e., prior life stress, deployment sexual harassment). No gender differences were observed in reports of perceived threat in the war zone. Though it was hypothesized that combat-related stressors would demonstrate stronger negative associations with postdeployment mental health for women, only one of 16 stressor x gender interactions achieved statistical significance and an evaluation of the clinical significance of these interactions revealed that effects were trivial. Results suggest that female Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom service members may be as resilient to combat-related stress as men. Future research is needed to evaluate gender differences in the longer-term effects of combat exposure.

Keywords: female veterans, male veterans, trauma, mental health

Topics: Armed Conflict, Combatants, Female Combatants, Male Combatants, Gender, Women, Men, Health, Mental Health, PTSD, Trauma, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Militaries Regions: Americas, North America Countries: United States of America

Year: 2011

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