Military women are no more likely than military men to experience symptoms of posttraumatic stress (PTSD), according to a United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) study published in Psychiatric Research.
Previous research has found that women—both in and out of the military—have higher rates of PTSD than men, though that research did not compare men and women with similar experiences. It may be possible that higher rates of PTSD among women are due to greater exposure to traumatic events. Some politicians and service members have pointed to supposedly higher rates of PTSD among women as a reason not to allow women to engage in military combat. The authors of the latest study say their findings support the Department of Defense’s move to include women in combat roles.
PTSD Among Male and Female Soldiers
Researchers pulled data from the Millennium Cohort Study, an ongoing study of service member health that includes more than 200,000 participants. They then matched 2,300 pairs of male and female participants—for a total of 4,600 participants—and controlled for similar experiences. Both men and women in the study had similar levels of combat exposure and were followed, on average, for seven years.gender.
Combat Trauma vs. Sexual Trauma
Both military men and women experience trauma. Combat experience is more common among men, but more women report sexual trauma—in both the military and the general population. A 2004 study found that, among military veterans seeking PTSD disability benefits from the VA, 71% of women and 4% of men reported being sexually assaulted.
The Department of Defense maintains an anonymous help and tip line for service members who have experienced rape or another form of sexual assault. Those who need help can access the hotline at 877-995-5247.
- Female soldiers at no greater risk for PTSD in new study cohort. (2015, August 28). Retrieved from http://www.science20.com/news_articles/female_soldiers_at_no_greater_risk_for_ptsd_in_new_study_cohort-156943
- Millennium Cohort Study. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.millenniumcohort.org/about
- Murdoch, M., Polusny, M. A., Hodges, J., & O’brien, N. (2004). Prevalence of in-service and post-service sexual assault among combat and noncombat veterans applying for Department of Veterans Affairs posttraumatic stress disorder disability benefits. Military Medicine,169(5), 392-395. doi:10.7205/milmed.169.5.392
- Who is more likely to develop PTSD? Women have more sexual trauma; men have greater combat exposure. (2011, July 14). Retrieved from http://www.usmedicine.com/agencies/department-of-defense-dod/who-is-more-likely-to-develop-ptsd-women-have-more-sexual-trauma-men-have-greater-combat-exposure/
- Women soldiers no more likely to develop PTSD, study finds. (2015, August 28). Retrieved from http://consumer.healthday.com/general-health-information-16/military-health-news-763/women-soldiers-no-more-likely-to-develop-ptsd-study-finds-702568.html
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