Alcohol use and negative consequences among active duty military personnel
An examination of alcohol use patterns in the active duty military to determine the relations of drinking levels and self-reported negative outcomes.
A population-based cross-sectional study design using two-stage complex sampling methodology.
Paper and pencil surveys were administered anonymously in groups at 64 U.S. military installations worldwide.
Randomly selected active duty members (28,546) at major military installations representing the total active force, with the exception of recruits, cadets, and incarcerated personnel.
Personnel were classified into five drinking levels ranging from abstainer to heavy drinker based on quantity and frequency of alcohol intake. Negative outcomes were measured as self-reported serious consequences of alcohol use and alcohol-related productivity loss. Risk for other alcohol related problems was assessed by the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT).
Alcohol negative outcomes showed a curvilinear dose–response relationship with drinking levels. Higher levels of drinking were associated with higher rates of alcohol problems, but problem rates were notably higher for heavy drinkers. Heavy alcohol users showed nearly three times the rate of self-reported serious consequences and over twice the rate of self-reported productivity loss than moderate/heavy drinkers. Heavy drinkers also had the highest risk for alcohol problems on the AUDIT. One fifth of military personnel were heavy drinkers and were most likely aged 18 to 35.
Prevention and clinical interventions should include a major focus on heavy drinkers. Commanders and peers should be trained in recognizing signs of heavy alcohol use and in approaching heavy alcohol users in a way that will foster positive attitudes as opposed to defensiveness and stigma.