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Soldiers who kill in combat less likely to abuse alcohol
Date:6/10/2014

WASHINGTON, D.C. (June 10, 2014)It's no secret that combat experiences are highly stressful and can contribute to instances of post-traumatic stress disorder and depression among soldiers post-deployment. It also comes as no surprise that many soldiers afflicted with these conditions abuse alcohol in an attempt to self-medicate.

But new research coauthored by Cristel Russell, an associate professor of marketing with American University's Kogod School of Business, and researchers with the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research finds that the most traumatic of all combat experiences, killing, is less likely to lead to alcohol abuse.

The study, titled "Changes in Alcohol Use after Traumatic Experiences: The Impact of Combat on Army National Guardsmen" and published in the June issue of the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, runs contrary to previous research.

"We were very surprised by the findings. Most previous research supported the prediction that more traumatic experiences would lead to more negative health outcomes, such as alcohol abuse," said Russell. "We found the opposite that the most traumatic experiences of killing in combat actually led to a decrease in alcohol abuse post-deployment."

Mortality Salience

Why would killing in combat, thought to be one of the most difficult stressors, cause soldiers to become less likely to abuse alcohol?

Russell and her colleagues believe that killing experiences may cause soldiers to have an increased sense of mortality and vulnerability that triggers a focus on self-preservation, which manifests itself in reduced high-risk alcohol consumption.

"We reason that a possible explanation may be that soldiers who experience killing during combat become more aware of their own vulnerability to death. Mortality salience is known to have effects on decisions that people make including, in our case, the decision to not take risks and abuse alc
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Contact: Ericka Floyd
efloyd@american.edu
202-885-5935
American University
Source:Eurekalert  

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