HSR&D Citation Abstract
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Women Veterans: Combat, Sexual Assault, PTSD, and Depression in Reserve & National Guard Compared to Regular Military Members
Sadler AG, Torner J, Booth BM. Women Veterans: Combat, Sexual Assault, PTSD, and Depression in Reserve & National Guard Compared to Regular Military Members. Paper presented at: VA HSR&D Field-Based Women's Health Meeting; 2010 Jul 16; Washington, DC.
Objectives: Identify differences in current PTSD and depression between military women by
service type (Reserve or National Guard, Regular Military, both), deployment (combat or not) and
sexual assault histories (lifespan and in-military).
Methods: 1004 women participated in a retrospective cohort study of current health, assault
history and care utilization. PTSD and depression were assessed using the Post-Traumatic Stress
Diagnostic Scale and CIDI, respectively.
Results: Most participants served in the regular military (RM) (60%, n = 598), 12% were Reserve or
National Guard (R/NG) (n = 123), and 23% served in both (28%, n = 282). Almost two thirds (62%)
acknowledged one or more sexual assaults (SA, attempted and/or completed) during their
lifetime; 28% acknowledged SA during military. R/NG servicewomen reported no SA during
military service. Deployment to a combat zone was experienced by 29%; 17% of RM vs 74% R/NG.
Of deployed RM, 21% experienced SA during military compared to 32% of those not combat
deployed (p = .0007). One-fourth met criteria for a current PTSD, and 30% for depression. There
was no difference in PTSD or depression between those who had served in combat or not, or by
service type. PTSD and depression rates were greater for women experiencing SA in comparison
to un-assaulted peers (p < .0001). These rates were even higher for those experiencing SA during
military (PTSD: 33% v 11%; depression: 39% v 16%; p < .0001).
Conclusions: Service women's lifetime SA exposure is a more useful marker of current PTSD and
depression compared to deployment or SA during military. Deployment did not elevate rates of
SA in RM, and R/NG reported no SA during military. R/NG were generally healthier with lower rates
of PTSD and depression despite high rates of combat deployment.
Impacts: Although deployment and SA are common experiences in military women, service type
(RM, R/NG or both) results in both different exposures and mental health outcomes and should be
routine clinical and research considerations. Current VA practice focuses on military SA
screening whereas lifespan SA must also be assessed. High rates of PTSD and depression found
have implications for mental health services unique to military women, and consequently
resource allocation. Further study of health risks and outcomes by service type is indicated.