Yale scientists to study female soldiers

Starting in December, Yale researchers will conduct one of the first ever studies exclusively about female soldiers.

Scientists will investigate whether female soldiers are more likely than males to have difficulty adjusting to civilian life after being in combat, School of Medicine professor and principal researcher Rani Desai said.

“It’s a long-standing idea, but we only now [since the start of the Iraq War] have our first large cohort of returning veterans who are women,” Desai said.

Desai will work with Carolyn Mazure, the director of Women’s Health Research at Yale, and psychiatry professor Sherry McKee to study 15 male and 15 female veterans from Connecticut. The veterans come from the Air Force, the Army, the Coast Guard, the Marines, the National Guard and the Navy.

Desai said that before the Iraq War, the only women involved in wars were nurses who generally saw no combat time. Although sending women into most combat situations is not sanctioned by Congress, fighting counterinsurgents in Iraq has blurred the line of what combat is, said Daniel P. Jones , the press officer for Women’s Health Research at Yale.

The demographic of female soldiers has also changed since the Iraq War, Desai said. Female soldiers are now similar in age and education to their male counterparts.

While Desai said she was unsure what the results would show, she said several factors may make female soldiers more susceptible than male soldiers to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other anxiety disorders.

“We know based upon previous research that women going into the military are more likely to have suffered childhood traumas than men,” Desai said. “They’re also at risk for military sexual trauma, sexual harassment and assault.”

Desai said if the study shows high rates of PTSD in both men and women, it would make doctors more aware of how widespread the anxiety disorder is.

Desai said the subjects will participate in focus groups to provide feedback to researchers about the study.

The Women’s Health Research at Yale, which seeks to include more women as subjects in research studies, will coordinate with the Northeast Program Evaluation Center of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs on the study. For their study, Desai, Mazure and McKee received a grant from the Grace J. Fippinger Foundation, which funds education and medical research. Funding will begin in December.


  • Pierson90

    What a waste of precious government research funds! Women in combat is one of the most disgusting ideas our enlightened post-modern society has embraced. And, now we are going to study all the ways they are negatively affected by this pathetic social experiment?

  • Hooah

    Pierson90, do you know any soldiers who are women? The ones I know who serve view themselves as soldiers first, and as women a distant second. A number of them have been more capable than the majority of the men they serve with, too. I also think the experiment might not be tremendously worthwhile, but to call women in combat a disgusting idea is silly. Anyone having to be in combat is ‘digusting’, but the women can serve just as well as the men in the vast majority of roles, and better in some.

  • Yale ’00

    If women DO turn out to have more trouble back in civilian life, future research will have to determine how much of that is caused by people like Pierson90 — and all the other people who don’t yet understand that female soldiers, too, can have PTSD etc.

    We need a lot of social changes to get people to understand that both men and women need help when they return from war.


    Physiological differences between men and women are significant. The probability that a randomly selected man will have greater upper-body strength than a randomly selected woman is 95-99%. The British Ministry of Defense concluded that only 1% of trained female recruits (up from 0.1% of female recruits pre-training) could satisfy the physical requirements for infantry and armor without sustaining substantially higher rates of injury in combat.

    In fact, physical conditioning, of the type undergone in the military, actually amplifies physiological differences between the sexes – the disparity between men and women who’ve both gone through the same training regimen is actually greater than when they began.

    This is not a judgment on the character or political equality of women; these are biological facts.

  • Cutter30

    Fortunately women who now make up 25% of the total armed forces for American defense aren’t relegated to positions dependent upon physical capabilities alone, but also upon their technical and tactical proficiency, pertinent skill set and professionalism, just like their male counterparts. The physical demands of any soldier in the military are determined by a test with the standard based on age and sex with the point being that physically fit soldiers endure hardships better than those who are not. The goal isn’t to field the forces that can do the most pushups, but to field the forces that can get the job done. The biological fact is women do the job, do it well and the military cannot function without them.

  • The reality of it all

    Hooah, I find your reply to be a tad too feminist. I have no problem with women in the army. Hell I’m sure they even make outstanding soldiers, but to insist they serve has a whole better than men is ridiculous. In fact logic conflicts with this line of reasoning. Women are generally much more squeamish, sensitive, physically weaker, far more emotional (higher likelyhood of shell shock), they have a lower pain tolerance, etc. Any random women could be just as good or better as a random man at say shooting a gun, or driving a tank, but warfare is far more demanding and taxing on the psychology. I heard a great deal of protest regarding the idea of co-ed barracks including bathrooms and showers. Such insignificant and trivial scruples and hang ups have no place in a military unit which fights as one. Are you trying to tell me they have no problems putting their lives in each others hands but are terrified of a little exposure? For reasons like this I find it easier to accept women soldiers are useful, but a nuisance as well.