Background: Numerous questions have been raised about the health consequences to veterans of the Gulf War but most particularly to issues concerning women, who were deployed in unprecedented numbers. Little is known about the health consequences to women of wartime stressors, in general, or the environmental and job-related exposures specific to the theater of the Gulf War.
Methods: A stratified sample of 525 women participated in the study following the war and again in a follow-up study 2 yr later. The sampling frame was stratified on component of the U.S. Air Force (active, guard or reserve), deployment (in the theater or elsewhere), and parental status (parent or nonparent). Measures included items concerning general physical health, gender-specific health, the "Gulf War Syndrome," and the emotional responses to war, including symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Results: Multiple statistical analyses were used to describe women's physical and emotional health at two time points following the war. Women deployed to the theater reported significantly more general as well as gender-specific health problems than did women deployed elsewhere. A cluster of common health problems included: skin rash, cough, depression, unintentional weight loss, insomnia, and memory problems. Women serving in the theater also reported a significant increase in several gender-specific problems compared to women deployed elsewhere.
Conclusions: Findings suggest the need for follow-up of a cluster of specific health effects, including those concerning gynecologic and reproductive health.