Female Veterans and Mental Health

By Rachel Dorman, MS & Heidi Radunovich, PhD

The repercussions of traumatic events that occur during military deployment can leave veterans struggling with depression or comorbid disorders that need mental health care. According to the VA, in the past nine years there has been a 130% increase in female veterans who have received VA mental health care. While previous research on female veterans often focused on other mental health topics, Curry and colleagues (2014) sought to look closer at how major depression and comorbid disorders impacted female veterans.

Women military personnel
[Flickr, 157595 by North Carolina National Guard, CC BY-ND 2.0] Retrieved on September 17, 2015
The authors collected data as part of the VA Mid-Atlantic Mental Illness Research, Education and Clinical Center. The study contained 1,700 veteran participants, 1,354 men and 346 women, who had served in the military since September 11, 2001. Participants were interviewed using the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV Diagnoses (SCID-I) to determine diagnoses. The researchers found the diagnosis of major depressive disorder over the life course (MDD), was significantly more common among female veterans than male veterans. This is consistent with the gender differences found in non-veteran populations. The researchers found MDD to be more common among veterans who were divorced or unemployed at the time of the study.  Women with MDD were more likely than men with MDD to have anxiety and eating disorders as comorbid diagnoses.

Women Military Personnel
[Flickr, By Minnesota National Guard, CC BY-ND 2.0] Retrieved on September 17, 2015
The researchers call for more work to be done in the area of female veteran depression and comorbid disorder. They recommend that practitioners be aware of common comorbid mental health conditions, such as PTSD, eating disorders or anxiety disorders, to insure that they are providing the most effective treatment protocol.  For more information, check out our previous depression related blogs here and here.


[1] Curry, J., Aubuchon-Endsley, N., Brancu, M., Runnals, J., VA Mid-Atlantic MIRECC Women Veterans Research Workgroup, VA Mid-Atlantic MIRECC Registry Workgroup, & Fairbank, J. (2014). Lifetime major depression and comorbid disorders among current-era women veterans. Journal of Affective Disorders, 152-154, p. 434 – 440. Doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2013.10.012 

This post was written by Rachel Dorman, M.S. and Heidi Radunovich, PhD, members of the MFLN Family Development (FD) team which aims to support the development of professionals working with military families. Find out more about the Military Families Learning Network FD concentration on our website, on Facebook, on TwitterYou Tube, and on LinkedIn.

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