Substance Use and Mental Health Risk Factors for Servicemembers: Findings from U.S. Department of Defense Health Related Behavior Surveys
RESEARCH TRIANGLE INST INTERNATIONAL RALEIGH NC
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This paper examines trends in use and risk factors for six substance use and mental health indicators among United States active duty military personnel cigarette smoking, heavy drinking, illicit drug use, depression, posttraumatic stress disorder PTSD, and suicidal ideation. Data were drawn from the 2008 and earlier population-based Department of Defense Surveys of Health Related Behaviors. A focus was on service-level findings and how Navy and Air Force personnel compare with Army and Marine Corps personnel on these trends and risk factors. Trends showed notable and highly similar declines in use for all services for cigarette smoking and illicit drug use, but a much flatter pattern for heavy drinking accompanied by significant increases in use from 1998 to 2008. Rates of PTSD increased from 2005 to 2008 for all services, but rates of depression and suicidal ideation did not show any significant changes. Risk factors varied across substance abuse outcomes, but cigarette smoking and heavy drinking had the most in common. The main risk factor for mental health outcomes was a comorbid mental health condition e.g., PTSD and suicidal ideation were strong predictors of depression. High combat exposure was predictive of cigarette use, heavy drinking, and PTSD. As hypothesized, risk for smoking, depression, and PTSD were elevated for Navy personnel similar to those for Army and Marine Corps personnel.
- Medicine and Medical Research