The health of women Gulf War (deployed) and Gulf Era (nondeployed) veterans is understudied; although most studies examining the health effects of deployment to the Gulf War adjust for gender in multivariate analyses, gender-specific prevalence and effect measures are not routinely reported. The National Academy of Medicine recommended that the Department of Veterans Affairs assess gender-specific health conditions in large cohort studies of Gulf War veterans.
Data from this study come from the follow-up study of a national cohort of Gulf War and Gulf Era veterans. This study was conducted between 2012 and 2014, and was the second follow-up of a population-based cohort of Gulf War and Gulf Era veterans that began in 1995. Measures included self-reported medical conditions and frequency of doctor visits as well as validated screening instruments for mental health conditions.
Overall, female veterans (both Gulf War and Era) reported poorer health than their male counterparts as measured by the prevalence of self-reported disease. The top five prevalent conditions in both Gulf War and Gulf Era veterans were migraine, hypertension, major depressive disorder, arthritis, and dermatitis. Female Gulf War veterans were found to have a higher prevalence of disease than male Gulf Era veterans.
Women veterans, particularly deployed veterans, from this era have significant medical needs that may justify increased outreach from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Our findings highlight the importance of asking about military service, particularly for women veterans, in the clinical setting, both in the Department of Veterans Affairs and in the private sector.