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Gender differences in the impact of warfare exposure on self-rated health

APA Citation:

Wang, J. M., Lee, L. O., & Spiro, A. (2015). Gender differences in the impact of warfare exposure of self-rated health. Women’s Health Issues, 25(1), 35-41. doi:10.1016/j.whi.2014.09.003

Abstract Created by REACH:

Veterans completed questionnaires to examine gender differences relationships among warfare exposure (combat deployment and exposure to casualties), health status, and functional impairment. Both male and female Veterans who were exposed to casualties reported worse health status than those not exposed to casualties.


Physical health

Branch of Service:

Multiple branches

Subject Affiliation:



Adulthood (18 yrs & older)


Empirical Study
Quantitative Study


Wang, Joyce M., Lee, Lewina O., Spiro, Avron


Background This study examined gender differences in the impact of warfare exposure on self-reported physical health. Methods Data are from the 2010 National Survey of Veterans, a nationally representative survey of veterans from multiple eras of service. Regression analyses assessed gender differences in the association between warfare exposure (deployment to a war zone, exposure to casualties) and health status and functional impairment, adjusting for sociodemographics. Findings Women reported better health status but greater functional impairment than men. Among men, those who experienced casualties only or both casualties and deployment to a war zone had worse health compared with those who experienced neither stressor or deployment to a war zone only. Among women, those who experienced casualties only or both stressors reported worse health than those who experienced war zone only, who did not differ from the unexposed. No association was found between warfare exposure and functional impairment in women; in men, however, those who experienced exposure to casualties or both stressors had greater odds of functional impairment compared with those who experienced war zone only or neither stressor. Conclusions Exposure to casualties may be more predictive of health than deployment to a war zone, especially for men. We did not find a stronger association between warfare exposure and health for women than men. Given that the expansion of women's military roles has allowed them to serve in direct combat, their degree and scope of warfare exposure is likely to increase in the future.

Publisher/Sponsoring Organization:

Elsevier Science

Publication Type:

REACH Publication

Author Affiliation:

VA Boston Healthcare System, JMW
VA Boston Healthcare System, LOL
VA Boston Healthcare System, AS


gender differences, warfare exposure, self-rated health, veterans, physical health

View Research Summary:

REACH Publication Type:

Research Summary


VA Clinical Science Research and Development Service, US
National Institutes of Health, US, Grant Number: R24-AG039343

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