172975 Female veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan: Stress-related behaviors and coping mechanisms

Monday, October 27, 2008: 8:30 AM

Kristin M. Mattocks, PhD, MPH , Yale University/VA Connecticut Healthcare System, West Haven, CT
Jody Sindelar, PhD , Department of Epilemiology and Public Health, Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, CT
Cynthia Brandt, MD, MPH , Medical Informatics, Yale University, New Haven, CT
Sally Haskell, MD , Womens Clinic VA, Yale University, West Haven, CT
Amy Justice, MD, PhD , Yale University, West Haven, CT
Background/Significance: Female veterans returning from Afghanistan and Iraq compose a rising proportion of all veterans and are more likely have exposure to combat. In addition to wartime stress, female veterans suffer from stress related to reentry into society, e.g. from work and family. Stress overload puts veterans at risk for stress-associated coping behaviors, including smoking, drinking, drug use, and overeating. Though much is known about stress-related experiences among male veterans, little is known about how female veterans experience the stress of re-entry.

Objective/Purpose: The purpose of this study is to develop a position paper that will describe women's experiences of stress and stress-associated addictions that occur with reentry and war.

Methods: Focus group interviews were conducted with patients utilizing health care services at the Women's Clinic at the VA Connecticut Healthcare System. Eligible patients were identified using the OEF/OIF roster supplied by the Office of Research and Development of the VHA.

Results: Preliminary results gathered in pilot interviews suggest that female veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan do not have adequate knowledge or access to health and mental health services aimed toward female veterans experiencing re-entry stress. Additional focus group data regarding women's stress-related behaviors and coping information is currently under analysis.

Discussion/Conclusions: Addictive behaviors to cope with women's greater combat exposure and reentry stress will harm women's health. This position paper will be the first in identifying war and reentry stress among returning female veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan and the impact of this stress on addictive behaviors.

Learning Objectives:
1. To better understand the unique health and mental health needs of female veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. 2. To be able to develop programs and policies that will assist female veterans experiencing stress with re-entry into society after return from Afghanistan and Iraq.

Keywords: Veterans' Health, Stress

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am a Co-Investigator on the grant under which this study is conducted.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.