Background: Despite their growing numbers in the United States military, little has been published on healthcare providers (HCP) or female service members from conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. The purpose of this secondary analysis of data from the 2005 Department of Defense (DoD) Survey of Health Related Behaviors Among Active Duty Military Personnel was to determine gender differences in reaction to the impact of operational stress in deployed military healthcare providers.
Methods: The unweighted study sample selected for this data analysis included results from female and male active duty military personnel over the age of 18 years (n=16,146) deployed at least once to Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) or Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) within the past 3 years (n=1,425), for a final sample consisting of either officer (healthcare officer) or enlisted (healthcare specialist) personnel (n=455) (weighted n=23,440). Indices of psychologic distress and social relations were explored and compared.
Results: Enlisted female HCPs were more likely to be African American (42.3%) and single (63.0%) and represented the greater percentage with significant psychologic difficulties, as shown by serious psychologic distress endorsement (11.3%) and positive screen results for depression (32.2%). More harmful drinking patterns (Alcohol Use Disorders Identifications Test [AUDIT] score 8-15) were found in more female HCPs (enlisted 61.8%, officers 76.4%) compared with males (enlisted 41.1%, officers 67.1%).
Conclusions: Female HCPs serving in the current military conflicts are reporting significant psychologic distress that may adversely impact their performance within the military, in theaters of operations, and in their lives at home. Implications for clinical care of female service members and veterans of current wars are addressed.