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Military Sexual Trauma and Adverse Mental and Physical Health and Clinical Comorbidity in Women Veterans.
Sumner JA, Lynch KE, Viernes B, Beckham JC, Coronado G, Dennis PA, Tseng CH, Ebrahimi R. Military Sexual Trauma and Adverse Mental and Physical Health and Clinical Comorbidity in Women Veterans. Women's health issues : official publication of the Jacobs Institute of Women's Health. 2021 Nov 1; 31(6):586-595.
Military sexual trauma (MST)-exposure to sexual harassment or assault during military service-is a major health priority for the Veterans Health Administration (VHA). We examined the health correlates of MST in the largest sample of U.S. women veterans studied to date.
Using national VHA electronic medical record data, we identified 502,199 women veterans who enrolled in the VHA between January 1, 2000, and December 31, 2017, had at least one VHA visit, and were screened for MST (exclusive of those who declined to answer the screening). We conducted logistic regression analyses to examine associations of a positive MST screen with various mental and physical health conditions-defined by administrative diagnostic codes-and comorbidity of mental and/or physical health conditions. Models were adjusted for demographic and military service characteristics, along with duration in the VHA.
Approximately 26% (n = 130,738) of women veterans screened positive for MST. In fully adjusted models, a positive MST screen was associated with greater risk of having all mental and physical health conditions examined, except cancer-related conditions, ranging from 9% greater odds of rheumatic disease to 5.4 times greater odds of post-traumatic stress disorder. MST was also associated with greater comorbidity, including greater odds of having = 2 mental health conditions (odds ratio [OR], 3.28; 99% confidence interval [CI], 3.20-3.37), having = 2 physical health conditions (OR, 1.26; 99% CI, 1.22-1.29), and having = 1 mental health condition and = 1 physical health condition (OR, 2.05; 99% CI, 2.00-2.11).
Findings suggest that MST is common in women veterans and may play a role in the clinical complexity arising from comorbid conditions.