Systematic review of women veterans' health: update on successes and gaps

Womens Health Issues. 2011 Jul-Aug;21(4 Suppl):S84-97. doi: 10.1016/j.whi.2011.04.022.


Objective: We assessed the state of women veterans' health research by conducting a systematic review of scientific literature published from 2004 to 2008, updating a prior review spanning the history of this literature to 2004.

Methods: We identified articles by searching scientific databases and contacting experts. Relevant articles were independently evaluated by two physician reviewers. We categorized 195 articles by study design, funding source, period of military service, research topic, and health condition.

Results: More research was published during this 5-year review (n = 195) than in the 25 years beforehand (n = 182). The 195 studies included five trials, but only one randomized trial, a study that examined treatment outcomes for women with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The large number of articles focused on Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF) soldiers' health issues (n = 23) reflects the growing participation of women in these conflicts. High rates of positive PTSD symptoms (range, 10%-19%) and other mental health disorders were found among OEF/OIF returning military women. The recent post-deployment literature underscores the need for repeated PTSD/mental health screening in returning veterans, and points to continuity of care needs for psychiatric and gynecological problems which occur in the field. The psychiatric and access/utilization literature confirmed the positive relationship between military sexual trauma and PTSD and the associated negative health effects.

Conclusion: Although most VA women's health research remains observational, methods are evolving toward an analytical focus. Even though successes are evident in the breadth and depth of publications, remaining gaps in the literature include post-deployment readjustment for veterans/families, and quality-of-care interventions/outcomes for physical and mental conditions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Health Services Accessibility
  • Humans
  • Quality of Health Care
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / therapy
  • Veterans / psychology*
  • Women's Health*