Women’s Mental Health

Women in the U.S. Military

Timeline of Women in the U.S. Military

  • 1778: Molly Pitcher assumed her injured husband’s spot on the cannon (Revolutionary War)
  • 1901: Women started serving officially on active duty in the U.S. Army
  • 1909: Women started serving in the U.S. Navy
  • 1914-1918 (WWI) & 1939-1945 (WWII): Increasing numbers of women, primarily as nurses, secretarial and communications support personnel
  • 1994: Direct Ground Combat Definition and Assignment Rule opened jobs except for direct ground combat elements to women
  • After 2001 (Post 9/11): >300,000 women deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom
  • 2013: Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta lifted the last remaining ban on women’s participation in combat
  • 2016: All military jobs opened to females

Women have served in the United States military throughout its history. As of July 2018, women comprise more than 16 percent of active-duty service members and fill 10 percent of all positions among deployed forces in recent conflicts.[ Reference 1 ], [ Reference 2 ]. In addition, more than 150,000 women serve in the National Guard and reserves.[ Reference 3 ]

Female service members play an increasingly broad and pivotal role in U.S. military operations. Their military experiences and responses to those experiences may be distinct from those of their male counterparts, and may influence their mental health status and needs. Likewise, female veterans are among the fastest-growing population of new VA service users. [ Reference 4 ], An Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch study of active-duty service members found that incident rates of mental health diagnoses were higher among females than males. Further, adjustment and personality disorders were more than twice as common, and anxiety and depressive disorders were 1.4 to 1.9 times as common in women compared to men.[ Reference 5 ], DoD is committed to exploring and addressing the unique mental health needs of women in the military through ongoing research, policy examination, and working groups.