Linking Frequent Heavy Drinking & Combat Exposure

Research Paper Title

Alcohol Misuse in Reserve Soldiers and their Partners: Cross-Spouse Effects of Deployment and Combat Exposure.


Military deployment and combat are associated with worse outcomes, including alcohol misuse. Less is known about how these experiences affect soldiers’ spouses.

The study objective was to explore relationships between deployment, combat exposure, and alcohol misuse; especially cross-spouse effects (effect of one partner’s experiences/behaviour on the other partner), which has been under-examined in military samples.


U.S. Army Reserve/National Guard soldiers and their partners completed a questionnaire covering physical and mental health, military service and substance use. Negative binomial regression models examined number of deployments and combat exposure individually for alcohol misuse and frequent heavy drinking (FHD). In additional models, we examined combat exposure’s role on alcohol outcomes, controlling for the soldiers’ number of deployments, PTSD symptoms, age, and in cross-spouse models, alcohol use and FHD. We considered individuals’ deployment experiences related to their alcohol outcomes and to their spouses’ alcohol outcomes.


The study sample included male soldiers with current/lifetime military service (n = 248) and their female partners. Combat exposure was related to FHD (RR: 1.01, p < .05, 95% CI: 1.01, 1.01) among male soldiers while controlling for PTSD symptoms, number of deployments, and age. Female partners of male soldiers were more likely to engage in FHD (RR: 1.01, p < .05, 95% CI: 1.01, 1.01) if their spouse experienced combat.


The results demonstrate that male soldiers and their spouses are at increased risk of FHD if the soldier experienced combat. This points to the need for better screening, particularly of spouses of soldiers, whose alcohol misuse may be overlooked.


Vest, B.M., Heavey, S.C., Homish, D.L. & Homish, G.G. (2017) Alcohol Misuse in Reserve Soldiers and their Partners: Cross-Spouse Effects of Deployment and Combat Exposure. Substance Use & Misuse. 1-8. doi: 10.1080/10826084.2017.1385632. [Epub ahead of print].


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