Gender moderates the association of military sexual trauma and risk for psychological distress among VA-enrolled veterans

Hallie S. Tannahill, Whitney S. Livingston, Jamison D. Fargo, Emily Brignone, Adi V. Gundlapalli, Rebecca K. Blais

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background: Military sexual trauma (MST) is associated with increased risk for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression diagnoses, as well as suicidal ideation/behavior (SI/B). Little is known about the differential effect of gender on the association of MST and the aforementioned mental health outcomes. As females are the fastest growing subpopulation of the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), it is imperative to assess possible between-gender differences in the association of MST with PTSD, depression, and SI/B. Methods: Participants were 435,690 (n = 382,021, 87.7% men) 9/11 era veterans seen for care at the VHA between 2004 and 2014. Demographics, gender, PTSD and depression diagnoses, SI/B, and MST screen status were extracted from medical records. Adjusted logistic regression models assessed the moderating effect of gender on the association of MST with PTSD and depression diagnoses, as well as SI/B. Results: Women with MST had a larger increased risk for a PTSD diagnosis (predicted probability =0.56, 95% confidence interval [CI] [0.56, 0.56]) and comparable risk for a depression diagnosis (predicted probability = 0.63, 95% CI [0.63, 0.64]) compared to men with MST. Men were more likely to have evidence of SI/B (predicted probability = 1.07, 95% CI [0.10, 0.11]) relative to women, but the interaction between gender and MST was nonsignificant. Limitations: Data were limited to veterans seeking care through VHA and the MST screen did not account for MST severity. Conclusions: Non-VHA settings may consider screening for MST in both men and women, given that risk for PTSD and depression is heightened among female survivors of MST.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)215-220
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Volume268
DOIs
StatePublished - May 1 2020
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Depression
  • Gender
  • Military sexual trauma
  • PTSD
  • Suicide
  • Veterans

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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