Objectives: To identify differences in health-related quality of life among women veterans who were raped, physically assaulted (not in the context of rape or domestic violence), both, or neither during military service.
Methods: We did a cross-sectional telephone survey of a national sample of 558 women veterans who served in Vietnam and subsequent eras of military service. A stratified survey design selected subjects according to era of service and location. The interview included socioeconomic information, lifetime violence history, the Women's Military Environment Survey to assess women's military experiences, and the Medical Outcomes Study Short Form-36 to assess health-related quality of life.
Results: Five hundred thirty-seven women completed the interview. Half (48%) experienced violence during military service, including rape (30%), physical assault (35%), or both (16%). Women who were raped or dually victimized were more likely to report chronic health problems, prescription medication use for emotional problems, failure to complete college, and annual incomes less than $25,000 (P <.05). Women who were physically assaulted or raped reported significantly lower health-related quality of life (P <.05). Those who had both traumas reported the most severe impairment, comparable to women with chronic illnesses.
Conclusion: This study suggests that the sequelae of violence against women are an important public health concern. More than a decade after rape or physical assault during military service, women reported severely decreased health-related quality of life, with limitations of physical and emotional health, educational and financial attainment, and severe, recurrent problems with work and social activities.