Higher depression severity mediates the association of assault military sexual trauma and sexual function in partnered female service members/veterans

Rebecca K. Blais, Whitney S. Livingston, Jamison D. Fargo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Background: Military sexual trauma (MST), and assault as opposed to harassment-only MST in particular, is associated with lower sexual function among female service members/veterans (SM/Vs). Recent research revealed that higher posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptom clusters of anhedonia and dysphoric arousal mediated the association of assault MST and sexual function. Such clusters represent the depressive symptoms of PTSD, and theories of sexual function suggest that depression worsens sexual function. The impact of depression on the association of MST and sexual function has yet to be tested. Method: Using path analysis, the study examined whether depression severity mediated the association of MST and sexual function after accounting for demographics and mediators of PTSD-related anhedonia and dysphoric arousal. Female SM/Vs (N = 697) completed measures of MST (history, severity), depression, PTSD-related anhedonia and dysphoric arousal, sexual function, and a demographic inventory. Results: One hundred twenty-two (17.50%) indicated that they did not experience MST, 336 (48.21%) reported that they experienced harassment-only MST, and 239 (34.29%) reported assault MST. Fit indices evidenced strong model fit, χ2(12, N = 697)=18.85, p=.09, CFI=1.00, TLI=0.99, SRMR=0.02, and RMSEA=0.03. The indirect effect of depression severity was significant (p<.001). Limitations: Use of cross-sectional data in a convenience sample of female SM/Vs. Conclusions: Even after accounting for established covariates and mediators of assault MST and sexual function, depression accounted for a significant amount of variance in this association. Treatment of poor sexual function must address depressive symptoms. As medications for depression can exacerbate sexual issues, psychotherapy may be the most effective treatment strategy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)238-244
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
StatePublished - Jan 15 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Depression
  • Females
  • Military sexual trauma
  • PTSD
  • Sexual function

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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