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HSR&D Study Describing Women Veterans' Resilience to Combat-Related Stress Featured in US News, MSNBC

June 10, 2011

VA HSR&D-funded researcher Dawne Vogt, Ph.D., of the VA's National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), recently published a paper based on study results that suggest women Veterans who served in Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) may be as resilient to combat-related stress as men in the first year following deployment.

As a consequence of women's changing role in the war zone and the evolving nature of modern warfare, female service members have experienced unprecedented levels of combat exposure in Afghanistan and Iraq. While women are still barred from direct ground combat positions, they are still at risk for combat exposure. Dr. Vogt's study examined gender differences in various dimensions of combat-related stress and associated consequences for post-deployment mental health in a nationally representative sample of male and female OEF/OIF Veterans, who had returned from deployment between October 2007 and July 2008. Dr. Vogt's study, which appeared in the May 30 issue of the Journal of Abnormal Psychology, was featured in The Vancouver Sun, US News & World Reports, and on MSNBC and CNBC.

Investigators analyzed 592 completed self-report surveys (340 women and 252 men) and used a wide variety of survey measures ranging from combat experience (e.g., being fired upon, witnessing injury or death) to the aftermath of battle (e.g., observing or handling human remains, dealing with detainees) to prior stress exposure. There were no differences between men and women in reports of perceived threat in the war zone.

The paper was based on a VA HSR&D-funded investigation, "Predicting Post-Deployment Mental Health, Substance Abuse and Service Needs," conducted by principal investigator Sue Eisen, Ph.D., of the Center for Health Quality, Outcomes, and Economic Research, in Bedford, Massachusetts.

"Gender differences in combat-related stressors and their association with postdeployment mental health in a nationally representative sample of U.S. OEF/OIF veterans." Vogt, Dawne; Vaughn, Rachel; Glickman, Mark E.; Schultz, Mark; Drainoni, Mari-Lynn; Elwy, Rani; Eisen, Susan Journal of Abnormal Psychology, May 30, 2011.

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