Table 2

Characteristics of the included studies

Bibliographic detailsAimsSample characteristicsDesignMeasures/methodAnalysisFindings
1. Conard and Scott-Tilley34
(USA)
To discover the experiences of female veterans in order to understand the impacts of combat on their physical and mental health, and to shed light on directions for future researchTwelve female veterans
deployed to the Gulf War II:
Navy (n=6);
Army (n=2);
Air Force (n=2);
Marines (n=2);
aged 19–41 years
Qualitative studyFace to face, semistructured and open-ended individual interviews, ranging from 30 to 60 minData were analysed using Colaizzi's (1978) descriptive phenomenological methodSeven themes: living in constant fear while deployed; combat has different meanings; bringing the war home; fear of being forever changed; disrespect from fellow military members; physical health—for better or worse; combat has rewarding experiences
2. Demers35
(USA)
To explore the experiences of female Iraq War veterans, understanding the challenges of reintegrating into civilian life and the impact on mental healthSeventeen female veterans deployed to Iraq:
Navy (n=4);
Army (n=10);
Marines (n=3);
aged 22–43 years
Qualitative, narrative inquiryPreliminary electronic surveys sent out and a focus group using a face-to-face semistructured interview guideIdentification of codes; creation of categories and themesTwo major themes: women at war; coming home
3. Elliott36
(USA)
To (1) describe the military nurses’ experiences during the postdeployment phase and (2) describe the meaning of the postdeployment experienceTen veterans: three males and seven females; only female accounts were used;
Army (n=8);
Air Force (n=2) (females not specific to any force);
aged 26–63 years
Qualitative, narrative inquiryFace-to-face in-depth semi structured interviewsThematic analysisDescription of the experience had five themes: learning to manage changes in the environment; facing the reality of multiple losses; feeling like it is all so trivial now; figuring out where I ‘fit’ in all the chaos; and working through the guilt to move forward.
Description of the meaning of the experience had two themes: serving a greater purpose and looking at life through a new lens
4. Gutierrez et al 37
(USA)
To explore the women's experiences and potential suicide risk factors according to the Interpersonal Psychological Theory of Suicide, including burdensomeness, failed belongingness, and acquired ability.Nineteen female veterans:
Iraq (n=18);
Afghanistan (n=1);
aged 24–52 years
Qualitative studyFace-to-face interviews, ranging from 25 to 75 minHermeneutic conversation between the text and the researcher(s), discussing transcriptions and developing themesTranscripts were reviewed and themes emerged regarding women being a minority within their environment and deployment-related stressors; these experiences seemed to influence participants’ views of the world and ways of coping
5. Koenig et al(38
(USA)
To describe returning veterans’ transition experience from military to civilian life and to educate healthcare providers about culture-centred communication that promotes readjustment to civilian lifeThirty-one veterans: seventeen male and fourteen female; only female accounts were used;
all females had either been Iraq or Afghanistan veterans and returned from deployment within the last 2 years
Qualitative studyIn-depth, semistructured interviewsGrounded practical theory (GPT)Veterans described disorientation when returning to civilian life after deployment; veterans’ experiences resulted from an underlying tension between military and civilian identities consistent with reverse culture shock; participants described challenges and strategies for managing readjustment stress across three domains––intrapersonal, professional/educational and interpersonal
6. Mattocks et al 39
(USA)
To explore the nature of women's coping strategies after return from military deploymentNineteen women who served in Iraq and Afghanistan:
50% National Guard;
40% Army or Navy reserves;
aged 23–55 years

Qualitative studySemistructured interviewsCodes identified, analysed and compared; categories and themes createdWomen veterans identified stressful military experiences and postdeployment reintegration problems as major stressors; stressful military experiences included combat experiences, military sexual trauma and separation from family; women had varying abilities to address and manage stressors, and employed various cognitive and behavioural coping resources and processes to manage their stress
7. Suter et al 31
(USA)
To explore female veterans’ identity construction,
maintenance and reproduction
Twenty-eight female veterans:
all veterans belonged to Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Services (WAVES) in the Navy;
Navy (n=25);
Marines (n=2);
Air Force (n=1);
21 served during World War II; 3 reported service during the Korean conflict, 2 the Vietnam War, 1 the Cold War and 1 reported serving both in Vietnam and the Persian Gulf;
aged 51–91 years
Qualitative studySemi-structured Interviews face-to-face and over the
Telephone.
Smith's (1995)
techniques for conducting and analysing semi-structured interviews.
Informed by grounded theory.
Participants found the transition back to civilian life problematic, in part due to difficulties meeting traditional gender role expectations and in part due to isolation, as they no longer related to civilian women in their hometowns. Participants reported membership in this WAVES unit allows opportunities to reminisce and relate to women with similar experiences.
8. Worthen and Ahern40
(USA)
The causes, course and consequences of anger problems in veterans returning to civilian lifeTwelve Afghanistan and Iraq war veterans in 2009–2011:
men (n=10);
women (n=2)
Qualitative studySemistructured interviews, using open-ended questionsThe analysis was in two phases: (a) thematic analysis and (b) interpretive analysis of veterans’ experiences with anger during reintegration to civilian lifeThree themes: (a) loss of structure during reintegration to civilian life, (b) moral injury sustained through a wartime experience and (c) post-traumatic stress disorder