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The Association Between Interpersonal Relationships and the Mental and Physical Health of Postpartum Active Duty Military Women

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Technical Report

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Uniformed Services University Of The Health Sciences Bethesda United States

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Over 15 of the U.S. military is comprised of women and 8-9 of servicewomen are pregnant at any given time. Military womens health impacts readiness. Past research has highlighted the importance of supportive interpersonal relationships in mitigating postpartum distress, but little research has examined active duty women, who may face challenges obtaining support. There is limited knowledge about the course or impact of various types of support. This study was meant to determine if there were critical periods when relationships or specific kinds of support were especially important for mental and physical well-being. The current study assessed 123 active duty Navy n 117 and Marine Corps n 6 women at five postpartum time points 2, 4, 6, 9, and 12 months and used mixed model regression to determine 1 The course of relationships 2 The association between relationships and postpartum mental health DVs anxiety, depression and 3 Postpartum physical health and functioning DVs fatigue, functional healthwell-being, BMI, physical fitness testing. The relationship between the qualityquantity of interpersonal relationships and health outcomes was hypothesized to be strongest initially and diminish over time. Levels of postpartum depression exceeded estimates from civilian studies with 56 of participants displaying significant symptoms of depression at two months postpartum and 22 at 12 months postpartum. While no critical time periods for relationships were identified, emotional and instrumental support were found to have a greater impact on outcomes than the quantitative properties of social networks. All relationship variables significantly decreased over time. Socioeconomic factors, including education and pay grade status, predicted psychosocial outcomes, with junior enlisted women and women with some college education or an associates degree generally displaying poorer outcomes than other groups.

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