Women Soldiers As Resilient As Men to Combat Stress

Impact of combat stressors on mental health may be similar for female and male U.S. soldiers

MONDAY, June 13 (HealthDay News) -- Women may have levels of resilience to combat-related stressors that are comparable to that of men, according to a study published online May 30 in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology.

Dawne Vogt, Ph.D., from the Veterans Affairs Boston Healthcare System, and colleagues examined the gender differences in various aspects of combat-related stress and the consequences for postdeployment mental health in U.S. veterans. A random sample of 2,000 military personnel who had returned from deployment to Afghanistan or Iraq within the previous year was included in the study.

The investigators found that women reported slightly lower exposure to most combat-related stressors than men, but they had higher exposure to other stressors, such as prior life stress and deployment sexual harassment. Reports of perceived threat in the war zone did not differ according to gender. Contrary to the hypothesis that postdeployment mental health of women would be strongly negatively impacted by combat-related stressors, only one of 16 stressor-gender interactions reached statistical significance. When the clinical significance of these interactions was evaluated, the effects were found to be trivial.

"Results suggest that female Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom service members may be as resilient to combat-related stress as men. Future research is needed to evaluate gender differences in the longer-term effects of combat exposure," the authors write.

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