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Military Deployment Affects Health of Women and Teens

By Mason Spirit contributor on April 1, 2010

Mona Ternus

A recent study completed by Mason researcher Mona Ternus found that a woman’s military deployment affects her health, as well as that of her adolescent children.

The research shows that deployment served as a catalyst for health and behavior change of both mothers and their adolescent children—and the longer the deployment, the greater the effect.

Ternus, associate professor in Mason’s College of Health and Human Services, found strong correlations between the number of symptoms women experienced during deployment—such as cough, headaches, joint pain, back pain, muscle aches, numbness and tingling, skin rashes, diarrhea, chest pain, and difficulty breathing—and the number of days deployed.

As for the adolescents, the research showed that a longer deployment can lead to a drop in school grades, poor nutrition, and decreased exercise.

“There are more than three million immediate family members of active-duty and reserve personnel, of whom approximately 400,000 are adolescents,” says Ternus. “Adolescence is a turbulent period with an increased number of risk behaviors. It follows that separation from the military mother during these potentially dangerous deployments has an impact on the adolescent.”

“Other risk factors, such as nonaccidental physical injury, physical fights, incidents involving weapons, tobacco use, drinking alcohol, illegal drug use, self-mutilation, and attempted suicide, were exhibited in small percentages.

While 25 percent of the adolescents exhibited risk factors prior to deployment, according to parental responses, Ternus found that figure jumped to 75 percent during and after deployment.

—Marjorie Musick

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