Regardless of traumatic events experienced during deployment, returning National Guard soldiers were more likely to develop a drinking problem if faced with civilian life setbacks, including job loss, legal problems, divorce, and serious financial and legal problemsall commonplace in military families. Results of the study by researchers at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health are published online in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
Alcohol abuse is a major concern for reservists returning home. Nearly 7% of Americans abuse or are dependent on alcohol, but among reserve soldiers returning from deployment, the rate of alcohol abuse is 14%, almost double that of the civilian population.
The study looked at a group of 1,095 Ohio National Guard soldiers who had primarily served in either Iraq or Afghanistan in 2008 and 2009. Over three years, the soldiers were interviewed three times via telephone and were asked about their alcohol use, exposure to deployment-related traumatic events and stressors like land mines, vehicle crashes, taking enemy fire, and witnessing casualties, and any stress related to everyday life since returning from duty.
More than half (60%) of the responding soldiers experienced combat-related trauma, 36% of soldiers experience civilian stressors, and 17% reported being sexually harassed during their most recent deployment. Among the group, 13% reported problems consistent with an alcohol use disorder in the first interview, 7% during the second, and 5% during the third. Alcohol use disorder is defined as alcohol abuse or dependence.
The researchers found having at least one civilian stressor or a reported incident of sexual harassment during deployment raised the odds of alcohol use disorders. The effect of the stressors was restricted to cases of new-onset alcohol use disorders, and wasn't seen among those with a history of problem drinking. In contrast, combat-r
|Contact: Stephanie Berger|
Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health