Women on war front more likely to get PTSD

Women on war front more likely to get PTSD

Women deployed in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are emerging as a group especially vulnerable to post-traumatic stress disorder researchers reported this week at the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association.

This was reported in the New York Time which also said that more than 230,000 women have served in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001.  Women have been denied insurance coverage for treatment of PTSD at a higher rate than men because of a former stipulation that required combat experience to qualify for the benefit.  Under rule changes enacted last year, any veteran deployed to a combat zone can seek care for PTSD.  But the story noted that VA officials know little about the scope of the problem among women.

A new study presented this week shows that researchers studied 922 National Guard members, including 91 women, under mandatory deployment to Iraq in 2008.  The guard members were screened using mental health measures before deployment and three months after deployment.  The study found that women were much more likely than men to meet the criteria for PTSD after returning home.  There were no significant differences between men and women in their level of combat exposure.

Women also felt less unit cohesion whilst deployed.  Unit cohesion is the mutual support and bonds of friendship among members of the military unit.  Another study presented at the APA meeting shows that such cohesion is emerging as a major factor in determining mental health effects of combat on troops.

Although women are well trained for combat and other aspects of military deployment, the authors noted, 'training regiments may nevertheless fait to adequately address physiological differences between men and women, leaving women feeling less prepared for deployment to combat zones.’

These findings have made me stop and think.  They do not surprise me in any way - but why?  As I grew up during the time of ‘women’s lib’ I whole heartedly support the notion of equality.  I have seen the changes come about in equal pay and work opportunities and fully expect this as right and proper.  However, as a mother and a woman I feel that war is an alien concept to me.  Is it that centuries of being the nurturer and peacemaker make us women less well equipped to deal with the horrors of war?  Is it then not surprising that the effects in the form of PTSD are more prevalent in females than males?

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