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Psychosocial Factors that Shape Substance Abuse and Related Mental Health of Women Military Veterans who Use Community-Based Services.

Evans EA, Glover DL, Washington DL, Hamilton AB. Psychosocial Factors that Shape Substance Abuse and Related Mental Health of Women Military Veterans who Use Community-Based Services. Substance use & misuse. 2018 Sep 19; 53(11):1878-1892.

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BACKGROUND: Women Veterans who use the Veterans Health Administration (VA) have high rates of substance abuse and poorer health than non-Veteran women. Less is known about the psychosocial needs of women Veterans who seek care in non-VA settings. OBJECTIVES: We provide a grounded description of factors that impact substance abuse, mental health, and related quality of life of women Veterans who use non-VA community-based health and social services. METHODS: Utilizing a mixed methods design, we conducted semi-structured in-person interviews with 22 women Veterans in Los Angeles in 2013-2015. RESULTS: The current health of these women Veterans was shaped by substance abuse and several other factors, including: histories of trauma (in childhood, during military service) and discrimination, and associated mental health conditions; post-military socio-economic stressors; shifting social roles and adverse social support; and lost personal identity after military service. Psychosocial factors collectively underscore areas in which delivery of health and social services to women Veterans being treated in non-VA settings could be improved: (1) diffuse, implement, and sustain evidence-based gender-sensitive substance abuse treatment; (2) address traumas contributing to poor health; (3) recognize stress proliferation processes erode women's capacity to access healthcare or cope with stressors in healthy ways; (4) champion women Veterans who embody resilience and thereby can help others to form empowered personal identities of health and wellness. CONCLUSION: Findings can inform interventions and services that ameliorate vulnerability to substance abuse and other health risks among women Veterans.

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