Study: Younger veterans more likely to abuse alcohol after deployments
August 14, 2008
Younger servicemembers and National Guard or Reserve troops are the most likely military members to develop alcohol-related problems after deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a study released Wednesday.
Guard and Reserve members showed higher rates in part because they receive less training and support services than active-duty military and they have a more jarring transition back to civilian life after deployment, the report found.
Servicemembers who had seen combat were 31 percent more likely to have begun binge drinking, the study found.
Guard and Reserve members who experienced combat were about 60 percent more likely to develop new patterns of heavy drinking or alcohol problems such as missing work because of drinking.
And Guard and Reserve troops who saw combat and were born after 1980 — younger than most of their counterparts — were nearly seven times as likely to develop problems.
The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, surveyed nearly 50,000 servicemembers both before and after deployment to track alcohol use and any related changes.
"Increased alcohol outcomes among Reserve/Guard personnel deployed with combat exposure is concerning in light of increased reliance on these forces," the report’s authors wrote.
"Active-duty Marines were also found to be at increased odds of continuing to binge drink after deployment, as well as to experience new-onset alcohol-related problems."
The study categorized "heavy drinkers" as men who had more than 14 alcoholic drinks per week, and women who had more than seven drinks per week.
"Binge drinking" was defined as having five or more drinks in one day for men, four for women.
According to the Pentagon, some 225,000 National Guard troops have served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Officials touted the study as the first to compare the effect of Iraq and Afghanistan deployments on alcohol-related problems.
It is part of the Pentagon’s "Millennium" study that began in 2001 and is intended to track servicemembers’ long-term health.
The study’s authors were from organizations including the Pentagon’s Center for Deployment Health Research, the Naval Health Research Center in San Diego, the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences and Madigan Army Medical Center at Fort Lewis, Wash.