What is it about?

Several studies have shown that military troops report more psychiatric symptoms if they have been exposed to sexual stressors compared to unexposed troops. However, other stressors, like childhood abuse and combat, can also increase psychiatric symptoms. This study showed that people who experienced childhood abuse were more likely to also experience sexual stressors in the military. When those childhood experiences were controlled for, the psychiatric symptoms troops reported were similar among those who did and did not report military sexual stressors. We also identified several work environment characteristics that could potentially be modified to reduce military sexual stressors.

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Why is it important?

Childhood abuse was a classic confounder between military sexual stressors and psychiatric symptoms. Understanding these complex interrelationships and the environment in which they arise allows us to identify areas for prevention.


One of the most complex parts of this study was figuring out how to best model military sexual stressors. Our goal was to develop a model that worked as well in men as in women, but our data suggested that men found certain kinds of sexual stressors more upsetting than women did, and vice versa. It took us two years of experimenting, but we finally found a way that allowed us to map sexual stressors on a gradient of severity that worked as well in the men as in the women.

Dr. Maureen Murdoch
Minneapolis VA Health Care System

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: The association between military sexual stress and psychiatric symptoms after controlling for other stressors, Journal of Psychiatric Research, December 2010, Elsevier, DOI: 10.1016/j.jpsychires.2010.09.009.
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