Women’s Mental Health

Hashmarks show percentage of women in each branch - Army - 18%, Air force - 22%, Navy - 21%, Marines - 8%, Coast Guard - 16%
Source: Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services’ 2020 Annual Report

The history of women in the U.S. military  is long and varied — dating back to the Revolutionary War. According to the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services’ 2020 Annual Report, 18 percent of the total force is female. Women are also the fastest-growing sub-population of veterans. While women play a broad and pivotal role in U.S. military operations, the military experiences of women and their responses to those experiences are distinct from those of their male counterparts and may influence their mental health status and needs.

A study of active-duty service members in 2007-2016 published in the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch’s Medical Surveillance Monthly Report in March 2018 found that incident rates of mental health diagnoses were higher among females than males for nearly all diagnoses including adjustment disorders, anxiety disorders, PTSD, and depressive disorders.

To consider the unique aspects of mental health for women in the military, the Psychological Health Center of Excellence collaborates with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) on an event every other year that brings together health practitioners from across the Defense Department (DoD) and the VA to make participants better equipped to understand and address the experiences of women veterans and service members. The Women’s Mental Health Webinar Series was held over three days in September 2020.

DoD is committed to exploring and addressing the mental health needs of women in the military through ongoing research and recommendations for future research, policy examination, and by providing resources for further information.