Air Force Women's Health Surveillance Study


Name: Penny Pierce

Rank: Lt Col, USAFR

Organization: The Regents of theUniversity of Michigan

Performance Site: University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI

Year Published: 1998

Abstract Status: Final


The aim of this study was to assess whether the prevalence of health problems remains elevated in women deployed to the Persian Gulf region during Operations Desert Shield and Storm at 6-8 years post deployment, after controlling for potentially confounding factors such as age, reproductive history, sexual history, and lifestyle factors. We have developed long-term health surveillance data that allow for sophisticated statistical analyses and establish a database available for other investigators to test emerging hypotheses. A total of 1,800 women deployed in the theater of operations and 1,800 women deployed elsewhere, frequency matched on component (active duty or reserve/guard) and whether a parent or not, were randomly sampled from the Defense Manpower Data Center. The study used a randomized stratified survey design based, in part, on the model of stress and coping formulated by Lazarus and colleagues (Lazarus, 1966; Lazarus & Folkman, 1984) supplemented by work on social support. A questionnaire was administered at equal intervals over 3 years and included measures of demographic, socioeconomic, and background information, general physical health, gender-specific health, mental health (anxiety, depression, somatization, and PTSD), stressful life events, role and emotional functioning, and the Pearlin Mastery Scale (Pearlin & Schooler, 1978). Multifactorial models of dependent variables of interest (e.g., health, retention) were analyzed for reliability, exploratory factors, and confirmatory factors using the EQS program. Strength of association between health outcome and deployment status was measured for each health outcome that differed by deployment status. An unexpected outcome was a model representing the relationship of post-deployment health to retention in Air Force women. Establishing the prevalence of health problems among veteran women draws attention to the need for better pre-deployment health screening, for timely and gender-specific health care in deployed locations, and for better surveillance of health problems in the post-deployment period.


Final Report is available on NTRL at: