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Gender Differences Among Military Combatants: Does Social Support, Ostracism, and Pain Perception Influence Psychological Health?

Publication Status: Published

Sponsoring Organization: Defense Health Agency (formerly TRICARE Management Activity)

Sponsoring Office: Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury

Congressionally Mandated: No

Funding Source: Defense Health Agency (formerly TRICARE Management Activity)

Release Date/Publication: January 01, 2016

Principle Investigator Status: Government

Primary DoD Data Source: Review

Secondary DoD Data Source:

Abstract

The literature on gender differences related to psychological health among in-theater service members who are deployed in a combatant role is limited. Much focuses on retrospective reports of service members who have returned from deployment. Potential key factors that contribute to gender differences in psychological health among combatants are found in literature across several topic areas, but integration of findings across disciplines is lacking. A growing body of literature on gender differences related to psychological health of postdeployment military populations suggests males and females respond differently to perceived levels of social support pre-and postdeployment. One study on service members who were deployed suggested no significant gender differences related to reported psychological health symptoms, but did appear to find significant gender differences related to reported perception of unit morale. In another related area, research explores how ostracism impacts physical and psychological health of individuals and organizations, and can result in perceptions of physical pain, although research on gender differences related to the impact of ostracism is scarce. Research has also begun to focus on sex differences in pain responses, and has identified multiple biopsychosocial, genetic, and hormonal factors that may contribute as potential underlying mechanisms. In this brief review, we focus on and begin to integrate relevant findings related to the psychological health of females in combat roles, gender differences in the impact of perception of social support on psychological health, the psychological and physical impact of ostracism on individuals and organizations, and the current literature on sex differences in pain perception. We conclude with a synthesis and discussion of research gaps identified through this review, implications for clinical practice, and potential future research directions. In conclusion, there appear to be gender differences related to the presence or absence of social support, the impact of ostracism, and the perception of pain. These differences may play a critical role in the psychological health of female combatants. More research on this topic is needed.

Citation:

McGraw K. Gender Differences Among Military Combatants: Does Social Support, Ostracism, and Pain Perception Influence Psychological Health? Mil Med. 2016 Jan;181(1 Suppl):80-5.

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