Military sexual trauma is associated with post-deployment eating disorders among Afghanistan and Iraq veterans

Rebecca K. Blais, Emily Brignone, Shira Maguen, Marjorie E. Carter, Jamison D. Fargo, Adi V. Gundlapalli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Objective: Evaluate the association of military sexual trauma (MST) screen status with eating disorder diagnoses among veterans within 1- and 5-years after initiating Veterans Health Administration (VHA) care, and whether the association varied by sex. Method: Retrospective cohort study of US Afghanistan/Iraq veterans who used VHA services between FY 2004 and 2014 (N = 595,525). This study used VHA administrative data to assess the presence of eating disorder diagnoses in medical records within 1- and 5-years of initiating VHA care, and whether a positive screen for MST was associated with eating disorders. Results: Three percent (n = 18,488) screened positive for MST. At 1- and 5-year follow up, 0.1% (n= 513, 74% female), and 0.2% (n = 504, 71% female) were diagnosed with an eating disorder, respectively. In regression models adjusted for demographic variables, military service, and psychiatric comorbidities, the presence of an eating disorder diagnosis was nearly two times higher among those with a positive screen for MST in the 1-year (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] = 1.94, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.57–2.40) and 5-year (AOR = 1.86, 95%CI = 1.49–2.32) cohorts. The increased likelihood conferred by MST for an eating disorder diagnosis was differentially stronger among male veterans than female veterans in the 1-year cohort only (AOR = 2.13, 95%CI = 1.01–4.50). Discussion: Veterans with a positive screen for MST, especially male veterans, had a nearly two-fold increased likelihood of having an eating disorder diagnosis. Screening for eating disorders may be important in both male and female veterans who report MST.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)808-816
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Eating Disorders
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Department of Veterans Affairs
  • Military Sexual Trauma
  • eating disorders
  • veterans

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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