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2015 HSR&D/QUERI National Conference Abstract

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3026 — Sexual Assault, Sexual Harassment, and Physical Victimization during Military Service across Age Cohorts of Women Veterans

Gibson CJ, VA Puget Sound Health Care System, Seattle Division; Gray KE, VA Puget Sound Health Care System, HSR&D; University of Washington, School of Public Health; Katon JG, VA Puget Sound Health Care System, HSR&D; VA Office of Patient Care, Women's Health Services; University of Washington, School of Public Health; Simpson TL, VA Puget Sound Health Care System, Seattle Division; University of Washington, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences; Lehavot K, VA Puget Sound Health Care System, Seattle Division and HSR&D; University of Washington, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences;

Objectives:
Research on the prevalence and potential sequlae of sexual and physical trauma during military service has largely focused on young women Veterans. Despite increasing age diversity among women Veterans, little is known about how the prevalence of these experiences, and their impact on health and well-being, may differ in women of different ages.

Methods:
Data were analyzed from a national online survey conducted in February-May 2013. Women Veterans who served from World War II to the current OEF/OIF/OND service eras participated (N = 781). The associations between age cohort (18-24, 25-34, 35-44, 45-54, 54-65, 65+) and sexual assault, sexual harassment, and physical victimization during military service were examined using logistic regression, adjusting for service duration, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, and educational attainment. In secondary analyses, the role of age in modifying the relationship between these experiences and self-reported health was examined.

Results:
Compared to the oldest age group (65+), all age groups except the youngest consistently had higher odds of reporting trauma during military service, independent of time in service and demographic factors. These differences were most pronounced in women aged 45-54 years (sexual assault odds ratio [OR] = 3.81, sexual harrassment OR = 3.99, and physical victimization OR = 5.72). The association between trauma during military service and self-reported health also varied by age, with the most negative impact observed among women aged 45-54 years.

Implications:
Women in almost all but the youngest age cohorts were more likely to report sexual assault, sexual harassment, and physical victimization during military service than Veterans in the oldest age group. Women aged 45-54 were particularly vulnerable to these experiences and their negative impact on subjective ratings of health.

Impacts:
Attention to traumatic interpersonal experiences during military service, and known associations with negative health outcomes among Veterans, has largely focused on younger women and Veterans of the current service era. Providers should be aware that women across the lifespan have had such experiences, and they may be particularly problematic for women in midlife who currently represent the largest proportion of women Veteran VA users.