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The health of female and male Gulf War-era Veterans

Research on Gulf War-era Veterans showed that many health problems were more common among females compared to males. The exception was for certain diseases related to cardiovascular health and diabetes, which are generally more common among U.S males.

These findings are from a follow-up study on the health of Gulf War-era Veterans. For details on these findings, read the abstract, Health Status of Female and Male Gulf War and Gulf Era Veterans: A Population-Based Study.

Text version of infographic

The health of female and male Veterans who served during the Gulf War

VA’s Post Deployment Health Services analyzed survey data on the health of female and male Veterans who served during the Gulf War, including deployed and non-deployed Veterans.  14,252 Veterans responded to the survey from the study “Follow-up Study of a National Cohort of Gulf War and Gulf Era Veterans,” 20% of whom were women.

Female Veterans reported a higher prevalence (defined as the proportion of a population with a condition) compared to men on many health conditions. The exception was for certain diseases related to cardiovascular health and diabetes, which are more common among men in the U.S.

The average number of chronic medical conditions reported by female Veterans was 3.2, and the average number of chronic medical conditions reported by male Veterans was 2.5.

Chronic Illnesses, Female Veterans compared to Male Veterans and Gulf War compared to Gulf Era

Gulf War
Migraine headache: 38.1% female Veterans, 18.9% male Veterans.
Hypertension: 35.3% female Veterans, 43.6% male Veterans.
Arthritis (not specified): 35.2% female Veterans, 33.8% male Veterans.
Dermatitis: 31.8% female Veterans, 27.0% male Veterans.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS): 30.2% female Veterans, 23.9% male Veterans.

Gulf Era
Hypertension: 34.4% female Veterans, 40.8% male Veterans.
Arthritis (not specified): 33.8% female Veterans, 31,5% male Veterans.
Migraine headache:  31.3% female Veterans, 13,8% male Veterans.
Dermatitis: 24.8% female Veterans, 20.5% male Veterans.
Functional dyspepsia: 22.3% female Veterans, 14.9% male Veterans.

Mental health disorders among female Veterans
Major depressive disorder:  35.0% Gulf War Veterans, 27.1% Gulf Era Veterans.
Other depressive disorder: 25.0% Gulf War Veterans, 22.1% Gulf Era Veterans.
High symptom severity: 24.1% Gulf War Veterans, 13.8% Gulf Era Veterans
Post-traumatic stress disorder: 23.7% Gulf War Veterans, 12.3% Gulf Era Veterans.
Anxiety disorder: 17.1% Gulf War Veterans, 17.0% Gulf Era Veterans.

Deployed females compared to deployed males were: 6.21 times more likely to have repeat bladder infection, 3.27 times more likely to have fibromyalgia, and 1.82 times more likely to have asthma.

Nondeployed females compared to nondeployed males were:  4.74 times more likely to have repeat bladder infection, 4.15 times more likely to have fibromyalgia, and 2.09 times more likely to have asthma.

This study showed that female Veterans, particularly those who were deployed to the Gulf War, have significant medical needs.

Source:  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31253241  

* All percentages are rounded.

Gulf War Follow-up Study

These findings are from the Follow-up Study of a National Cohort of Gulf War and Gulf Era Veterans which examines the health of Veterans who deployed to the Gulf War  in 1990-1991 and Veterans who served elsewhere during the same time period.

Health concerns?

Learn more about illnesses related to Gulf War service. If you are concerned about health problems which may be associated with military service during the Gulf War, talk to your health care provider.