HEALTH / WELL-BEING

Gender Differences in the Impact of Warfare Exposure on Self-Rated Health

Article

This study examined gender differences in the impact of warfare exposure on self-reported physical health.
The paper reports data from the 2010 National Survey of Veterans, a nationally representative survey of veterans from multiple eras of service. Analyses assessed gender differences in the association between warfare exposure (deployment to a war zone, exposure to casualties) and health status.
Women reported better health status but greater functional impairment than men. In men, those who experienced casualties only or both casualties and deployment to a war zone had worse health compared to those who experienced neither stressor or deployment to a war zone only. In women, those who experienced casualties only or both stressors reported worse health than those who experienced war zone only, who did not differ from the unexposed. No association was found between warfare exposure and functional impairment in women, but in men, those who experienced exposure to casualties or both stressors had greater chance of functional impairment compared to those who experienced war zone only or neither stressor.
The authors conclude that exposure to casualties may be more predictive of health than deployment to a war zone, especially for men. They did not find a stronger association between warfare exposure and health for women than men. Given that the expansion of women’s military roles has allowed them to serve in direct combat, their degree and scope of warfare exposure is likely to increase in the future.

Abstract

BACKGROUND This study examined gender differences in the impact of warfare exposure on self-reported physical health. METHODS Data are from the 2010 National Survey of Veterans, a nationally representative survey of veterans from multiple eras of service. Regression analyses assessed gender differences in the association between warfare exposure (deployment to a war zone, exposure to casualties) and health status and functional impairment, adjusting for sociodemographics. FINDINGS Women reported better health status but greater functional impairment than men. In men, those who experienced casualties only or both casualties and deployment to a war zone had worse health compared to those who experienced neither stressor or deployment to a war zone only. In women, those who experienced casualties only or both stressors reported worse health than those who experienced war zone only, who did not differ from the unexposed. No association was found between warfare exposure and functional impairment in women, but in men, those who experienced exposure to casualties or both stressors had greater odds of functional impairment compared to those who experienced war zone only or neither stressor. CONCLUSIONS Exposure to casualties may be more predictive of health than deployment to a war zone, especially for men. We did not find a stronger association between warfare exposure and health for women than men. Given that the expansion of women's military roles has allowed them to serve in direct combat, their degree and scope of warfare exposure is likely to increase in the future.

Full Reference

Gender Differences in the Impact of Warfare Exposure on Self-Rated Health Joyce M. Wang, Lewina O. Lee, Avron Spiro, III Womens Health Issues. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2016 Jan 1. Published in final edited form as: Womens Health Issues. 2015 Jan-Feb; 25(1): 35–41. Published online 2014 Nov 22. doi: 10.1016/j.whi.2014.09.003 PMCID: PMC4275340