Women serving in the armed forces and posted in high conflict areas are at an increased risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), says a study.
The findings showed that active duty and national guard/reserve women with high combat exposure had at least 20 times higher likelihood of screening positive for PTSD compared with women with no combat exposure.
In addition, women exposed to combat conditions also had an increased likelihood of developing other behavioural health problems like depression and excess of alcohol consumption.
The impact of even one exposure event should not be overlooked, the researchers said.
“Our findings suggest that injuries, assaults, and combat exposures experienced by women during deployment may have an additive, negative effect on their post-deployment behavioural health,” said lead author Rachel Sayko Adams, Scientist at Brandeis the University in Massachusetts, US.
In the study, 42,397 army enlisted women who returned from Afghanistan or Iraq were assigned combat exposure scores of 0, 1, 2, or 3+ based on their self-reported experiences.
“Ongoing force-wide screening for behavioural health problems should be coupled with development and evaluation of programs to improve the psychological wellbeing of the armed forces,” Adams noted, in the work appearing in the Journal of Traumatic Stress.