An Analysis of Mentally Unhealthy Days in Female Veterans

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New positions have recently become available in the military and will eventually lead to increases in the number of female veterans in America. These women are influenced by adverse childhood events (ACE), post-traumatic stress disorder, and other life-altering incidents. Some female veterans show positive mental health status, resiliency, and lead healthy lives, while others female veterans battle high rates of alcohol abuse, substance abuse, homelessness, and suicide. Uncovering factors that lead to a positive mental health status is a critical component towards implementing gender-specific strategies to help female veterans build resiliency and coping mechanisms. An analysis of the ACE module included from the 2011 and 2012 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) was used to build multiple linear regression models, Page 118 2016 Appalachian Student Research Forum and evaluate prevalence of three ACE events. These negative sexual events included being touched sexually by another, being forced to touch another sexually, or being forced to have sex as a child. Female veterans show higher prevalence of negative sexual ACE events when compared to civilian women. The biggest difference was being touched sexually prior to the age of 18 with 19% of veterans reporting this experience, compared to 14% of civilian women. The multiple linear regression model analyzed self-reported mentally healthy days of women within the last 30 days. Female veterans had 0.59 (p = 0.044) fewer mentally unhealthy days than civilian women during a 30-day period. The three sexual ACE variables significantly predicted unhealthy days for female veterans and civilians. Women forced to have sex had 2.5 (p = 0.000) more mentally unhealthy days and 1.9 (p = 0.000) more mentally unhealthy days when forced to touch another sexually. Older age, additional education, and increased income were significant and lowered the number of mentally unhealthy days, while marriage led to an increase of 0.18 (p = 0.005) unhealthy days. Results indicated that female veterans had1.35 (p = 0.002) fewer physically unhealthy days. It is noteworthy that female veterans are reporting a significant increase in mentally healthy days compared to their civilian counterparts, despite the higher prevalence of negative sexual ACEs. Further investigation is needed to discover the mental, behavioral, and demographic features that help some female veterans overcome the typical dose-response relationship between negative ACEs and unhealthy days. Evidence -based resiliency programs can then better assist female veterans who are struggling to survive.


Johnson City, TN

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