Stress, coping, and mental health-seeking behaviors: Gender differences in OEF/OIF health care providers


  • The views expressed in this manuscript are those of the authors and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Uniformed Services University, the Department of the Defense, the Department of Veterans Affairs or the United States Government. Partial funding was provided by a grant from VHA Health Services Research and Development & Rehabilitation Research and Development Grant, HFP09-156 (Edward J. Hickling, Scott D.Barnett).


Health care providers (HCPs) are often placed in positions of heightened stress when serving in military operations. As military HCPs have a large number of female providers, there is a concern that gender may influence both risk and resiliency within the health care provider subgroup. The purpose of this secondary analysis of the 2005 Department of Defense Survey of Health Related Behaviors Among Active Duty Military Personnel (data collected April through August 2005) is to describe stress, coping, and health-seeking behaviors of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom deployed military health care providers and the role gender may have for both health care officers and specialists. Female HCP responses indicate the lives of these women are significantly impacted by their family responsibilities. Reluctance of females to seek mental health care is concerning with perhaps more concern over career than personal well-being. Findings included (a) concern about performance, odds ratio (OR) = 1.86, 95% confidence interval (CI) [0.43, 8.12] for enlisted females, OR = 2.83, 95% CI [0.31, 25.66] for female officers; (b) problems with money, OR = 1.6 CI [0.69, 3.7] for enlisted females; (c) having a drink to cope, OR = 3.26, 95% CI [0.22, 48.68] for enlisted females; and (d) damage military career to seek mental health care, OR = 1.78, 95% CI [0.59, 5.39] for female officers. Results indicate needed provider awareness concerning mental health-seeking behavior and sensitivity toward gender differences that contribute to unique manifestations of operational stress outcomes.