Contrary to the widely accepted view that women are more vulnerable to the negative impact of trauma exposure than men, a new study has suggested that they may be as resilient to combat stress as men.
In their first study of its kind, researchers at the Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) believe that female military service-members who were posted to Iraq may be as resilient to combat-related stress as men.
The studied a representative sample of female and male U.S. Veterans who had returned from deployment to Afghanistan or Iraq within the previous year.
As expected, women reported slightly less exposure than men to most combat-related stressors, but higher exposure to other stressors (i.e., prior life stress, deployment and sexual harassment).
However, no gender differences were observed in reports of perceived threat in the war zone.
"Contrary to our hypothesis that associations between combat-related stressors and post-deployment mental health would be slightly stronger for women than men, only one of 16 interactions achieved a conventional level of statistical significance and this interaction suggested a stronger negative association for men rather than women," said lead author Dawne Vogt, an associate professor of psychiatry at BUSM.
"This finding is important because it appears to suggest fairly comparable levels of resilience to combat-related stressors for women and men, at least during the timeframe evaluated in this study," she added.
These findings appeared on-line in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology.