Stress and substance use among military women and men
This paper examines the relationship between perceived stress (at work, in family or personal life, and from being a woman in the military) and substance use (heavy drinking, illicit drug use, cigarette smoking) among active-duty military women and men. Data were drawn from over 16,000 respondents to the 1995 Department of Defense Survey of Health Related Behaviors Among Military Personnel. Findings indicated substantial substance use and perceived high stress in the armed forces. Further, the relation between substance use and stress varied by gender. Military women reported substantially lower rates of heavy drinking than men, but had similar rates of illicit drug use and cigarette smoking. Both military women and men were more likely to describe their military duties as more stressful than their family or personal lives; for women, the stress associated with being a woman in the military was second to stress at work. Stress at work or in the family was an important predictor of substance use among military men, but not among military women. For military women, stress associated with being a woman in the military was predictive of illicit drug use and cigarette use. These findings suggest that more effective stress management strategies may need to be implemented for military men to reduce the link between stress and heavy alcohol use, illicit drug use, and smoking.