Women Who Served in Vietnam are Happier and Healthier Than Average American...

Women Who Served in Vietnam are Happier and Healthier Than Average American Female

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Happy Military Women-CC Israel Defense Forces

Though it may seem counterintuitive, new research shows that American women who were shipped overseas to Vietnam are currently more happy than the average woman.

A study just released by Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health reports on the health of American women who were deployed to Vietnam for either military or civilian service. The results show that 48% of career military women were very happy compared to 38% of women in the general population, and of better than average physical and mental health. The study is the first study to describe the experiences of civilian women deployed to a warzone; compare them to those of military women; and match the patterns of general health and happiness for women deployed to Vietnam with a representative sample of their peers.

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About 265,000 women served in the U.S. military during the Vietnam Era, with as many as 11,000 deployed to Vietnam but not formally assigned combat roles. Nonetheless, they were deployed to combat zones where they experienced warzone stressors and hostile fire.

“Our results suggest that a military career – which by military rules in force during the Vietnam era, precluded a woman from typical wife and mother roles – afforded women a meaningful experience that continued to positively impact their emotional well-being, even decades after the war,” said the study’s senior author Jeanne Mager Stellman.

Career military women who never had children also reported being happier than the average American woman.

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“Women who volunteered and went to Vietnam in the 1960s may have done so as a way of breaking away from the traditional roles assigned to women in the United States during that time, and they seem to have continued on a different trajectory in post-war years,” said Dr. Stellman.

Deployment to Vietnam for both military and civilian women had other positive aspects. Many women reported satisfaction from their work with the wounded troops and civilians in Vietnam. Those who served as nurses, in particular, commented that they were given much more responsibility in their positions while in Vietnam than they would have had in a similar civilian job in the U. S.

An earlier paper by Dr. Stellman and the Boston-VA based group evaluated the psychological well-being of approximately 1,300 female military personnel, Red Cross workers, and others deployed to Vietnam.

“Our new study underscores the benefits of a military career for those women who chose it,” noted Dr. Stellman. “Entering military service or volunteering for civilian activities in a warzone offered an opportunity for talented women to establish careers, and rise to high ranks and achieve positions that would be impossible in the civilian world. In addition, career military women in general, lived in a supportive community that was knowledgeable and sympathetic to their work. What we learned from this study can help to improve the experiences and well-being of current and future generations of female military personnel.”

(Source: Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health)

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