Almost 90% of women veterans involved with the criminal justice system have been diagnosed with a mental health disorder, and more than half with a substance use disorder, according to data published in Medical Care.
“With the exceptionally heavy burden of mental health disorders and substance use disorders in female veterans involved in the criminal justice system, which for mental health disorders exceeds even the burden seen in their male counterparts, access to mental health and substance use disorder treatment needs to be a priority in [Veterans Health Administration],” researchers wrote.
Andrea K. Finlay, PhD, of the Center for Innovation to Implementation, Substance Use Disorder Quality Research Enhancement Initiative at the VA Palo Alto Health Care System in Menlo Park, Calif., and colleagues conducted a retrospective cohort study using clinical and administrative data from 1,535 female veterans and 30,478 male veterans treated by Veterans Justice Outreach Specialists from 2010 to 2012.
The prevalence of mental health disorders was 88%, and substance use disorders was 58% among women, compared with male veterans (mental health disorders: 76%; substance use disorders: 72%).
Data indicate women were more likely to be diagnosed with a mental health disorder (adjusted OR=1.98; 95% CI, 1.68-2.34), but were less likely to be diagnosed with a substance use disorder (aOR=0.50; 95% CI, 0.45-0.56) compared with men.
Moreover, women were less likely to be diagnosed with alcohol, cocaine, cannabis or other drug use disorders.
Of those with a mental health disorder, 98% of women and 97% of men used a mental health treatment, such as one outpatient or inpatient visit, or residential day. Women were less likely to be admitted into a mental health residential treatment (aOR=0.69; 95% CI, 0.57-0.83), compared with men.
The researchers suggest more research to better understand these sex differences. – by Samantha Costa
Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.