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Gender differences in traumatic experiences and mental health in active duty soldiers redeployed from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Maguen S, Luxton DD, Skopp NA, Madden E. Gender differences in traumatic experiences and mental health in active duty soldiers redeployed from Iraq and Afghanistan. Journal of psychiatric research. 2012 Mar 1; 46(3):311-6.

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The purpose of this study was to examine gender differences in combat exposure, military sexual trauma (MST), and their associations with mental health screen results among military personnel deployed in support of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Data were collected as part of a pre- and post-deployment screening program at a large Army medical treatment facility. Cases included 7251 active duty soldiers (6697 men and 554 women) who presented for their pre- and post-deployment screening from March 2006 to July 2009. Pre-deployment mental health symptoms were statistically controlled for in our analyses. We found significant gender differences in demographic variables, exposure to combat, and MST. Women reported greater exposure to MST than did men. Although men reported greater exposure to high-intensity combat experiences than women, results indicate that women are experiencing combat at higher rates than observed in prior cohorts. Men were more likely to report problem drinking, and women were more likely to report depression symptoms. There were no gender differences with respect to PTSD symptoms. Although we found few differences between women and men in the impact of combat stressors on mental health, there was a stronger association between injury and PTSD symptoms for women than for men. Our findings indicate that it would be useful for clinicians to be aware of this difference and assess for exposure to a full range of traumatic combat experiences, particularly injury, as not all types of combat experiences may be equally experienced by men and women returning from military deployments.

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