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Creech SK, Pulverman CS, Crawford JN, Holliday R, Monteith LL, Lehavot K, Olson-Madden J, Kelly UA. Clinical Complexity in Women Veterans: A Systematic Review of the Recent Evidence on Mental Health and Physical Health Comorbidities. Behavioral Medicine (Washington, D.C.). 2021 Jan 1; 47(1):69-87.
A recent evidence map focused on women veterans underscored the limited number of articles published on mental health comorbid with physical health conditions in this population. The quality of this small body of research has yet to be evaluated. The aim of this systematic review was to evaluate and synthesize research published between 2008 and 2015 and identified in the Women Veterans' Health Research Evidence Map as related to mental and physical health comorbidities among women veterans. Following PRISMA guidelines, 23 published studies were identified and 21 were included in the review. In general, significant associations between several mental health conditions (e.g., depression, posttraumatic stress disorder, substance use disorders) and physical health disorders (e.g., cardiovascular disease, diabetes, gastrointestinal disorders, hypertension, obesity, pain, and urinary symptoms) and health behaviors (e.g., preventative care and treatment adherence) were noted. The majority of studies were rated as low risk of bias, with selection and detection bias most frequently observed across studies. Additionally, gaps in the recent literature were observed, including the need for further investigation of the role of medical conditions in complicating mental health symptoms and care provision. Results underscore the importance of healthcare providers attending to women veterans' mental and physical health simultaneously and irrespective of setting. Further, while the Department of Veterans Affairs continues to make sizable gains in its focus on women veterans' health, continued research on several health domains is needed to ensure adequate understanding of the health needs of women veterans.