The relationship between sexual assault, religiosity, and mental health among male veterans

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Journal or Book Title

The International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine


Objectives: We examine the association between sexual assault, religion and mental health among male veterans. Methods: We used longitudinal data collected from 2,427 male veterans who received VA outpatient care. Sexual assault was self-reported in the questionnaire. Two dimensions of religiosity were used: organizational (frequency of religious service attendance) and subjective religiosity (the extent that religious beliefs are a source of strength or comfort). Mental health was measured by the mental component summary from the Veterans SF-36 and depression was measured by the Center for Epidemiologic Studies-Depression scale. A regression model that uses the generalized estimating equation approach for longitudinal repeated data analysis was used. Results: Based on the baseline data, 96 (4%) patients reported ever experiencing sexual assault. These patients have significantly lower levels of mental health status and higher levels of depression (p < .001). The regression results show that this decrement in mental health and increment in depression associated with sexual assault are in lesser degrees for patients who attended religious service more frequently compared to those who never did (p < .05). Similarly, there is a smaller magnitude of increment in depression associated with sexual assault for those who have a higher level of subjective religiosity (p < .05). Conclusions: Although the prevalence of self reported sexual assault is low among male veterans, those who reported sexual assault experiences had lower levels of mental health status and higher levels of depression. Further, religion attenuates this association which highlights the important role religion might have in coping with this stressful life event.









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