Nov. 9–In the first study of its kind, Women's Health Research at Yale will examine whether women soldiers have more trouble adjusting to post-war life than men.
Rani Desai, associate professor of psychiatry at the Yale School of
Medicine, is the principal investigator. She also is in charge of
evaluating post-traumatic stress disorder treatment programs in the Veterans Affairs Department nationwide.
"The point is really to look at whether men and women differ in
their post-deployment experiences," Desai said. This is the opportune
time for such a study because Iraq and Afghanistan are the first wars in which significant numbers of women have seen combat.
Of 2 million Americans who have fought in the two wars, about 220,000 have been women, according to a press release.
The pilot study will look at whether there are sex differences in
cases of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, anxiety, drug and nicotine
use, Desai said, following 20 to 30 men and women for a year.
"It is work that we are doing for a much larger study, which will be a national study," involving 1,000 subjects, she said.
While there is no evidence women perform differently from men in
combat, the aftereffects are "a completely unexplored area," Desai said.
"The only data that we really have is from women who are Vietnam
vets and that was a different kind of woman, she said: older, less
diverse and much less involved on the front lines.
A large factor that may influence women's post-deployment emotional health
is the far higher number of sexual assaults, from simple harassment to
rape, that they suffer from fellow troops in the war zone.
"Anecdotally, we're hearing that it's very, very high," Desai said,
perhaps 40 percent to 50 percent. The instance of sexual assault in
Iraq and Afghanistan is higher than among civilians, and higher than
women soldiers suffered before serving in those wars, she said.
Working with Desai will be Carolyn M. Mazure, director of Women's Health Research at Yale, and Sherry McKee, associate professor of psychiatry.
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