Gender Differences in Combat-Related Stressors

Vogt, D., Vaughn, R., Glickman, M. E., Schultz, M., Drainoni, M.-L., Elwy, R., & Eisen, S. (2011). Gender differences in combat-related stressors and their association with postdeployment mental health in a nationally representative sample of U.S. OEF/OIF veterans. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 120(4), 797-806.

The literature on exposure to noncombat trauma (such as assaults and accidents) tends to show women at higher risk for mental health problems. This study investigated the effects of combat exposure for 2,000 female and male service members who had returned from deployment to Afghanistan or Iraq within the previous year. Participants were administered a questionnaire assessing specific combat experiences, exposure to battle aftermath operations, perceived threat to safety and well-being, difficulty of living and working environment, prior stress exposure, sexual harassment during deployment, posttraumatic stress symptoms, depression, substance abuse, and mental health functioning. Results indicated similar levels of perceived threat, posttraumatic stress symptoms, depression, and mental health functioning. Modest, but significant gender differences were reported for other measures. Men reported more substance abuse and had experienced greater exposure to combat, aftermath operations, and difficult living and working environments. Women experienced more exposure to prior life stressors and sexual harassment during deployment. Data on post-deployment mental health suggested that female and male military personnel may be equally resilient to combat-related stress.

Making Connections

Gender differences
Mental health
Posttraumatic stress

Media Supplement

This site for the film, Invisible War, provides resources on sexual assault in the military as well as a brief trailer for the film.

This site includes the trailer for the film, Lioness, which “tells the story of a group of female Army support soldiers who were part of the first program in American history to send women into direct ground combat.”

This NPR podcast discusses changes in VA hospital care for female vets. [3 min 56 sec]