Posttraumatic stress disorder after combat zone deployment among Navy and Marine Corps men and women

Caroline A Macera, Hilary J Aralis, Robyn Highfill-McRoy, Mitchell J Rauh
Journal of Women's Health 2014, 23 (6): 499-505

BACKGROUND: As more women are deployed into combat environments, preliminary findings have been inconsistent regarding gender differences in symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following deployment. Very little is known about the experiences of Navy and Marine Corps personnel deployed to combat zones.

METHODS: The study population consisted of Navy and Marine Corps personnel who completed a Post-Deployment Health Assessment upon return from deployment to Iraq, Afghanistan, or Kuwait during 2008 and 2009 and a Post-Deployment Health Reassessment approximately 6 months later. These instruments included screening questions for PTSD.

RESULTS: The final sample of 31,534 service members included 29,640 men and 1,894 women. Within occupation categories, women were overrepresented relative to men in the roles of functional support/administration and healthcare specialists, whereas men were overrepresented in the role of combat specialist. Screening rates were similar by gender, with a slightly higher percentage of women compared with men screening positive for PTSD (6.6% vs. 5.3%). These symptoms of PTSD among men and women in this sample could not be attributed to combat exposure or other deployment-related characteristics.

CONCLUSIONS: Relative to men, women in this sample had a similar probability of screening positive for PTSD following deployment. These PTSD symptoms were not associated with deployment-related variables, suggesting that deployment to a combat zone does not affect women differently from men. This finding could have meaningful implications for policies surrounding women in the military.

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