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Women Survivors of Military Sexual Trauma at Greater Risk of PTSD, Depression Than Men

The effect of military sexual trauma on subsequent increased risk of certain mental health outcomes differs with the victim’s gender, according to a study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders.

“As females are the fastest growing subpopulation of the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), it is imperative to assess possible between-gender differences in the association of military sexual trauma with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and suicidal ideation or behavior,” wrote researchers from the VA Salt Lake City Health Care System.

The study included 435,690 US military veterans from the 9/11-era who accessed VHA care between 2004 and 2014. Data including gender (nearly 88% were men), military sexual trauma screening status, PTSD and depression diagnoses, and suicidal ideation or behavior were extracted from medical records.

Compared with men who experienced military sexual trauma, women with military sexual trauma had a greater increased risk for a PTSD diagnosis and a comparable risk for a depression diagnosis, the study found. Men, meanwhile, were more likely to have suicidal ideation or behavior after military sexual trauma than women.

“Non-VHA settings may consider screening for military sexual trauma in both men and women,” researchers wrote, “given that risk for PTSD and depression is heightened among female survivors of military sexual trauma.” —Jolynn Tumolo

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