Depression in Female Veterans Returning from Deployment: The Role of Social Factors

TitleDepression in Female Veterans Returning from Deployment: The Role of Social Factors
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2018
AuthorsSairsingh, Holly, Phyllis Solomon, Amy Helstrom, and Dan Treglia
JournalMilitary Medicine
Paginatione133 - e139
Date Published2018/04/03/Mar/ undefined

Objective: Women are serving in the armed forces and deployed to areas of conflict in increasing numbers. Problems such as depressive symptoms and risks related to combat exposure can have negative effects on adjustment following service; understanding the relationship between these problems may contribute to strategies providers can use to facilitate healthy adjustment after deployment. The purpose of this study is to examine social factors as they relate to mental health adjustment, namely depressive symptoms among female veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Operation New Dawn (OND). We hypothesized that combat exposure would predict higher levels of depressive symptoms and that social support would moderate the relationship between combat exposure and depression.Methods: In a cross-sectional design, 128 female Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation New Dawn veterans completed an online survey about combat experience, social support, depression, demographic characteristics, and behavioral health symptom history. We conducted multiple regression analyses to examine linear and moderating relationships.Results: There was no significant relationship between combat exposure and depression; social support did not significantly moderate the relationship between combat exposure and depression. However, higher levels of social support and financial comfort were significantly related to lower levels of depression.Conclusion: This study highlights the role of social factors, specifically social support and perceived financial status, as potential barriers to healthy emotional readjustment following deployment. These findings suggest that it may be beneficial for mental health providers to screen female veterans and refer them to appropriate services to reduce financial stressors and strengthen their use of social support. More research should continue to examine more fully the impact of combat exposure on female service members' mental health and work to isolate the factors most strongly related to depression.

Short TitleMilitary Medicine