Linking Deployment, Military Sexual Trauma & Alcohol Problems

Research Paper Title

Deployment-Related Military Sexual Trauma Predicts Heavy Drinking and Alcohol Problems Among Male Reserve and National Guard Soldiers.

Background

Military sexual trauma (MST) is associated with a range of deleterious mental and physical health consequences; however, far less attention has been paid to the associations between MST and negative health behaviors, such as substance abuse. This study examined 2 focal research questions:

  1. What is the prevalence of experiencing MST during deployment among male Reserve and National Guard soldiers? and
  2. To what extent is the degree of MST exposure during deployment associated with frequent heavy drinking and alcohol problems post-deployment?

Methods

Data from male soldiers who had been deployed (N = 248) were drawn from the baseline wave of Operation: SAFETY (Soldiers And Families Excelling Through the Years) an ongoing study examining health among U.S. Army Reserve and National Guard and their partners. Participants were recruited over a 15-month period (Summer 2014 to Fall 2015) from units in New York State. Deployments occurred prior to the baseline wave of the study. Analyses examined the relation between degree of MST exposure during soldiers’ most recent deployment and (i) frequent heavy drinking and (ii) alcohol problems, measured at baseline, controlling for posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms and age.

Results

17.3% of the male service members reported experiencing MST during their most recent deployment. Further, greater MST exposure was associated with a greater likelihood of engaging in frequent heavy drinking (adjusted risk ratio [aRR] = 1.03, 95% CI [1.01, 1.05]) and experiencing alcohol problems (aRR = 1.03, 95% CI [1.01, 1.06]) at baseline.

Conclusions

Findings demonstrate that MST rates are high among male Reserve and National Guard soldiers, and greater MST exposure is associated with an increased likelihood of engaging in frequent heavy drinking and experiencing alcohol problems among a population already at risk for problematic alcohol use.

Reference

Fillo, J., Heavey, S.C., Homish, D.L. & Homish, G.G. (2018) Deployment-Related Military Sexual Trauma Predicts Heavy Drinking and Alcohol Problems Among Male Reserve and National Guard Soldiers. Alcoholism, Clinical and Experimental Research. 42(1), pp.111-119. doi: 10.1111/acer.13528. Epub 2017 Nov 24.

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