Army service takes toll on military women, female relatives of soldiers


Women in the military and female family members of soldiers are more likely to suffer from chronic pain, according to a recent study from Friday.

The peer-reviewed study, conducted by the Brigham and Women’s Hospital and published in the journal JAMA Network, concluded that chronic pain appears to be prevalent for military women over the last two decades, and is completely associated with stress over being on active-duty. This also extends to women who have a significant other serving in the military.

The objective of the study was to assess chronic pain’s incidence among the women whom the study targets. Researchers evaluated women serving in the military and female family members of soldiers from between 2006 to 2013, and then compared that to those between 2014 to 2020.

By the end of the study, more than 3.4 million women between the ages of 22 and 46, where from 2006-2013 had increased odds of chronic pain than from 2014-2020.

First author Andrew Schoenfeld, MD, MSc, an orthopaedic surgeon in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and Center for Surgery and Public Health at BWH, said “We aimed to investigate the impact of frequent exposure to intense combat deployments on women in the military and their civilian spouses.

Cable car toward University of Haifa (credit: RANBAR/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)

“I was surprised by the magnitude of the effect we observed here, particularly among female civilian spouses. This underscores an overlooked aspect of deployment schedules that the Military Health System must recognize.”

The study’s relation to the current conflict

The study comes amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, where many women are concerned and worried for the well-being of their significant others fighting in Gaza.

It was also reported in early December that research from Haifa University concluded that two-thirds of Israelis whose partners are on reserve duty during the war are 1.5 times more likely to suffer from depression, parental burnout, and anxiety than those whose spouses have not been called up.

Judy Siegel-Itzkovich contributed to this report.

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