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Introduction: There are higher levels of alcohol misuse in the military compared to the general population. Yet there is a dearth of research in military populations on the longitudinal patterns of alcohol use. This study aims to identify group trajectories of alcohol consumption in the UK military and to identify associations with childhood adversity, deployment history and mental disorder.

Methods: Data on weekly alcohol consumption across an eight year period and three phases of a UK military cohort study (n = 667) were examined using growth mixture modelling.

Results: Five alcohol trajectory classes were identified: mid-average drinkers (55%), abstainers (4%), low level drinkers (19%), decreasing drinkers (3%) and heavy drinkers (19%). Alcohol consumption remained stable over the three periods in all classes, other than in the small decreasing trajectory class. Individuals in the heavy drinking class were more likely to have deployed to Iraq. Abstainers and heavy drinkers were more likely to report post-traumatic stress disorders at baseline compared to average drinkers.

Conclusions: Heavy drinkers in the UK military did not change their drinking pattern over a period of eight years. This highlights the need to develop effective preventive programmes to lessen the physical and psychological consequences of long-term heavy alcohol use. Individuals with a mental health problem appeared more likely to either be drinking at a high level or to be abstaining from use.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)130-137
JournalAddictive Behaviors
Early online date12 Jul 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Alcohol use
  • Trajectories
  • Military
  • Cohort study


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