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Drinking motivations in UK serving and ex-serving military personnel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Patricia Irizar, Daniel James Leightley, Sharon Stevelink, Roberto Jorge Rona, Norman Owen Jones, Katerina Gouni, Jo-Anne Puddephatt, Nicola Townsend Fear, Simon Charles Wessely, Laura Goodwin

Original languageEnglish
JournalOccupational Medicine
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 21 Nov 2019

King's Authors


Background: Drinking motivations within the UK military have not been studied despite the high prevalence of alcohol misuse in this group.

Aims: We aimed to characterise drinking motivations and their demographic, military and mental health associations in UK serving and ex-serving personnel.

Methods: Serving and ex-serving personnel reporting mental health, stress or emotional problems occurring in the last three years were selected from an existing cohort study. A semi-structured telephone interview survey examined participants’ mental health, help-seeking, alcohol use and drinking motivations.

Results: Exploratory Factor Analysis (EFA) of drinking motivations in military personnel (n = 1279; response rate = 84.6%) yielded 2-factors, labelled “drinking to cope” and “social pressure”. Higher drinking to cope motivations were associated with probable anxiety (rate ratio [RR] = 1.4; 95% Confidence Interval [CI] = 1.3 to 1.5), depression (RR = 1.3; 95% CI = 1.2 to 1.4) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD; RR = 1.4; 95% CI = 1.3 to 1.6). Higher social pressure motivations were associated with probable anxiety (OR = 1.1; 95% CI = 1.0 to 1.1). Alcohol misuse and binge drinking were associated with reporting higher drinking to cope motivations, drinking at home and drinking alone.

Conclusions: Amongst military personnel with a stress, emotional or mental health problem, those who drink to cope with mental disorder symptoms or because of social pressure, in addition to those who drink at home or drink alone, are more likely to also drink excessively.

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