2012 HSR&D/QUERI National Conference Abstract
3056 — Risk for OEF/OIF Combat-Related PTSD: Findings from the National Survey of Women Veterans
Washington DL, Bean-Mayberry B, Riopelle D, Sun S, and Mitchell M, VA Greater Los Angeles HSR&D Center of Excellence;
Women serving in Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom (OEF-OIF) experience significantly greater combat exposure than U.S. women Veterans of prior wars. Our objective was to examine the association of OEF-OIF combat exposure and other deployment and post-deployment stressors and supports with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
In 2008-09, we surveyed 1,029 OEF-OIF women Veterans as part of the larger population-based National Survey of Women Veterans. Measures included: service in a combat or war zone; receipt of hostile fire; military sexual assault; other deployment and post-deployment military and family stressors and supports (relationships with those closest harmed by absence; military comrades supportive; training and equipment were adequate; non-military people don’t understand military experience; overall military experience was positive); a validated screener for current PTSD; and VA and mental healthcare use in the prior 12 months. We conducted logistic regression analysis to determine the association of combat exposure and other stressors and supports with current PTSD, adjusting for other measures.
Seventy-one percent of OEF-OIF women Veterans experienced combat zone exposure, with 67% of combat exposed or members of her unit receiving hostile fire, and 22% of combat exposed afraid of enemy action most or all of the time. Twenty-four percent of OEF-OIF women Veterans were PTSD positive (30% of combat exposed, 11% of non-exposed; p <.001). After adjusting for military sexual assault and VA and mental healthcare use, significant predictors of PTSD were combat zone exposure (OR 3.0; 95% CI 1.1-8.1), relationships with those closest harmed by absence (OR 2.2; 95% CI 1.1-4.5), and non-military people not understanding military experience (OR 2.2; 95% CI 1.2-4.1). Protective factors were supportive military comrades (OR 0.4; 95% CI 0.2-0.8) and viewing overall military experience as positive (OR 0.4; 95% CI 0.2-0.8).
PTSD in OEF-OIF women Veterans was associated with combat zone exposure and with military and family stressors and supports, even after adjustment for MST and receipt of mental healthcare and VA use.
Research is needed to determine if interventions to reduce deployment and post-deployment-related stressors, or bolster supports, can alter women Veterans' combat-related PTSD risk.