Gender differences in depression and PTSD symptoms following combat exposure

Depress Anxiety. 2010 Nov;27(11):1027-33. doi: 10.1002/da.20730. Epub 2010 Aug 18.


Background: This research examined gender as a moderator of the association between combat exposure (CE) and depression as well as CE and PTSD symptoms among a nonclinical sample of Soldiers following deployment in support of operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Methods: Cases included 6,943 (516 women, 6,427 men) active duty Soldiers that were retrospectively analyzed from a pre- and post-deployment screening database at a large Army installation.

Results: Gender moderated the association between CE and depressive and PTSD symptoms such that higher levels of CE were more strongly associated with depression and PTSD symptoms in women compared to men. Female Soldiers also reported higher severity of depressive symptoms compared to male Soldiers, whereas men reported higher levels of CE and a greater number of previous deployments compared to women.

Conclusions: CE was a stronger predictor of post-deployment depression and PTSD symptoms for women compared to men. These results provide evidence for gender-based differences in depression and PTSD risk. Screening for degree of CE in addition to symptoms associated with depression and PTSD can help with the care for service members who are returning from deployments to combat zones.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Afghan Campaign 2001-*
  • Combat Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Combat Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Combat Disorders / psychology
  • Depressive Disorder / diagnosis*
  • Depressive Disorder / epidemiology*
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Iraq War, 2003-2011*
  • Male
  • Mass Screening
  • Middle Aged
  • Military Personnel / psychology*
  • Personality Inventory / statistics & numerical data
  • Psychometrics
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sex Factors
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / diagnosis*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / epidemiology*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology
  • Young Adult