Northville, MI (Law Firm Newswire) November 2, 2015 – A new study by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Department of Defense has found that women in the military are at the same risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as men with similar combat experiences.
Researchers examined more than 2,300 pairs of male and female active-duty troops and veterans deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan at least once. They did not have PTSD at the beginning of the study. Participants were matched based on variables such as age, race, marital status, alcohol use, combat exposure and military occupation. Medical histories and stressful life experiences such as divorce or sexual assault were also taken into account to ensure like comparisons.
The data showed that 6.7 percent of women and 6.1 percent of men developed PTSD after the pairs were followed for an average of seven years. According to researchers, this was a statistically insignificant difference. The findings were published in the September 2015 Journal of Psychiatric Research.
“These results offer insight into the long-term impact that military service can have on the mental health of female veterans,” said Jim Fausone, a Michigan-based veterans attorney. “As the study seems to suggest that inherent gender differences do not contribute to the risk of developing PTSD, future research can instead explore the effects of different types of traumatic experiences. The findings can then be applied to developing treatment options for PTSD.”
The results were far below the commonly cited 11 to 20 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who are reported to have PTSD. This was attributed to the study’s exclusion of troops who had PTSD at the outset.
In contrast to the latest findings, past research on civilians has found that women are at a higher risk for PTSD than men. However, men and women with similar trauma exposures were not compared in those cases. The results come at a time when the expanding role of women in combat and some elite units of the military has become the subject of debate.
“With more and more women taking on active roles in the military, the focus should now shift to specialized PTSD treatment approaches for female troops. For example, the VA has a shortage of women’s mental health therapists who can cater specifically to their needs,” said Fausone.
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