New book examines effects of substance abuse, health, and mental health among active-duty military personnel

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — A new book by researchers at RTI International examines trends and correlates of substance abuse, physical health, and mental health, and the collective effects of these issues on workforce productivity and readiness of active duty military personnel stationed across the world.  

The book, Understanding Military Workforce Productivity: Effects of Substance Abuse, Health, and Mental Health, provides the first broad-based examination of all these critical domains across the active duty services, including the U.S. Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force.

“Unfortunately, a sizeable number of military personnel experience physical and mental health challenges and substance abuse problems during their military service,” said Robert Bray, Ph.D., director of the Substance Abuse Epidemiology and Military Behavioral Health program at RTI and lead author of the book.  “Not only do these challenges negatively affect service members and their families, they also compromise the military’s ability to protect the nation in the most effective, efficient manner.”

The findings in the book are based on original research and analyses by RTI drawn from 10 comprehensive Department of Defense Surveys of Health Related Behaviors among Active Duty Military Personnel from 1980 to 2008. RTI conducted nine of these 10 population-based surveys for the DOD and provided key direction for survey and sampling design, questionnaire development, data collection, and analysis/reporting.  For the book, the authors examined the prevalence and effects of core health and behavioral health measures of illness, injury, overweight and obesity, alcohol and drug abuse, tobacco use, and mental health.

The book, co-authored by researchers at RTI, serves as a valuable resource for military officials, policymakers, and researchers interested in military health behaviors and ways to improve force productivity.

Several analyses included in the book consider the impacts of combat experience in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, conflicts that propelled physical health and behavioral health issues into the spotlight. The authors suggest that many of the substance abuse , physical health,   and mental health concerns—including alcohol abuse, illicit drug use, injury, posttraumatic stress disorder, suicide, and family stress—that became prominent during the height of these conflicts continue to be issues for the military.

“Our book draws on the rich health behavior survey data collected for the Department of Defense over almost three decades to examine the overlapping effects of health and behavioral health on military workforce productivity and discusses approaches for improving the well-being of military personnel and improving performance,” Bray said.

The book was co-authored by Robert Bray, Ph.D., Laurel Hourani, Ph.D., Jason Williams, Ph.D. Marian (Becky) Lane, Ph.D. and Mary Ellen Marsden, Ph.D.  (retired), all from the Behavioral Health and Criminal Justice Division at RTI.

Understanding Military Workforce Productivity: Effects of Substance Abuse, Health, and Mental Health was published by Springer and can be purchased on leading bookseller’s websites.  

Cover of Understanding Military Workforce Productivity: Effects of Substance Abuse, Health, and Mental Health

Highlights

  • A new book by researchers at RTI International examines trends and correlates of substance abuse, physical health, and mental health, and the collective effects of these issues on workforce productivity and readiness of active duty military personnel
  • The book, Understanding Military Workforce Productivity: Effects of Substance Abuse, Health, and Mental Health, provides the first broad-based examination of all these critical domains across the active duty services
  • The findings in the book are based on original research and analyses by RTI