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Gender differences in the effects of deployment-related stressors and pre-deployment risk factors on the development of PTSD symptoms in National Guard Soldiers deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Polusny MA, Kumpula MJ, Meis LA, Erbes CR, Arbisi PA, Murdoch M, Thuras P, Kehle-Forbes SM, Johnson AK. Gender differences in the effects of deployment-related stressors and pre-deployment risk factors on the development of PTSD symptoms in National Guard Soldiers deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. Journal of psychiatric research. 2014 Feb 1; 49(2):1-9.
Although women in the military are exposed to combat and its aftermath, little is known about whether combat as well as pre-deployment risk/protective factors differentially predict post-deployment PTSD symptoms among women compared to men. The current study assesses the influence of combat-related stressors and pre-deployment risk/protective factors on women's risk of developing PTSD symptoms following deployment relative to men's risk.
Participants were 801 US National Guard Soldiers (712 men, 89 women) deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan who completed measures of potential risk/protective factors and PTSD symptoms one month before deployment (Time 1) and measures of deployment-related stressors and PTSD symptoms about 2-3 months after returning from deployment (Time 2).
Men reported greater exposure to combat situations than women, while women reported greater sexual stressors during deployment than men. Exposure to the aftermath of combat (e.g., witnessing injured/dying people) did not differ by gender. At Time 2, women reported more severe PTSD symptoms and higher rates of probable PTSD than did men. Gender remained a predictor of higher PTSD symptoms after accounting for pre-deployment symptoms, prior interpersonal victimization, and combat related stressors. Gender moderated the association between several risk factors (combat-related stressors, prior interpersonal victimization, lack of unit support and pre-deployment concerns about life/family disruptions) and post-deployment PTSD symptoms.
Elevated PTSD symptoms among female service members were not explained simply by gender differences in pre-deployment or deployment-related risk factors. Combat related stressors, prior interpersonal victimization, and pre-deployment concerns about life and family disruptions during deployment were differentially associated with greater post-deployment PTSD symptoms for women than men.