Female service members report unwanted gender-based experiences—sexual harassment, sexual assault, and gender discrimination—at rates three to six times higher than male service members.
When demographic and workplace variables are controlled for, female service members are significantly more likely than their male counterparts to report worse physical health, more depressive symptoms, higher likelihood of lifetime trauma, and higher levels of PTSD symptoms.
Exposure to unwanted gender-based experiences explains virtually all of the gender differences in depression and PTSD symptoms, as well as overall health ratings.
Past-year sexual harassment had the greatest unique explanatory power for physical health, and past-year sexual harassment and gender discrimination explained the most variance for depressive symptoms; all three unwanted gender-based experiences explained a significant amount of the variance in PTSD symptoms and completely attenuated the gender effect for PTSD symptoms.
If sexual harassment and gender discrimination are elevating symptoms of ill health among a large portion of the military workforce, this suggests a strong rationale for investing greater attention and resources into preventing sexual harassment and gender discrimination, and for providing care to those who have experienced them.