Prospective Evaluation of Mental Health and Deployment Experience among Women in the US Military


Seelig, Amber D., Isabel G. Jacobson, Besa Smith, Tomoko I. Hooper, Gary D. Gackstetter, Margaret A.K. Ryan, Timothy S. Wells, Shelley MacDermid Wadsworth, and Tyler C. Smith. 2012. "Prospective Evaluation of Mental Health and Deployment Experience among Women in the US Military." American Journal of Epidemiology 176 (2): 135-145.

Authors: Amber D. Seelig, Isabel G. Jacobson, Besa Smith, Tomoko I. Hooper, Gary D. Gackstetter, Margaret A. K. Ryan, Timothy S. Wells, Shelley MacDermid Wadsworth, Tyler C. Smith


Previous research has shown that military women often experience potentially severe health outcomes following deployment. Data from the Millennium Cohort Study, a 21-year longitudinal study examining the health effects of military service, were used to examine this issue. In longitudinal analyses (2001–2008) carried out among US military women (n = 17,481), the authors examined positive screens for depression, anxiety, panic, and posttraumatic stress disorder in relation to deployment in support of the operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, while adjusting for relevant baseline and time-varying covariates. Women who were deployed and reported combat-related exposures had greater odds than nondeployed women of reporting symptoms of a mental health condition (odds ratio = 1.91, 95% confidence interval: 1.65, 2.20), after adjustment for demographic, military, and behavioral covariates. In addition, higher stress, problem drinking, and a history of mental illness were significantly associated with increased risk of later mental health conditions. In contrast, women in the Reserves or National Guard and those with higher education were at decreased risk of mental health conditions (all P 's < 0.01). As the roles and responsibilities of women in the military expand and deployments continue, designing better prevention and recovery strategies specifically for women are critical for overall force health protection and readiness.

Keywords: mental health, depression, anxiety, posttraumatic stress disorder, female soldiers

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

Year: 2012

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