Despite significant efforts from the Department of Veteran Affairs, alcohol abuse among veterans continues to rise. Compared to their civilian counter parts, those who have served in the military win out for both quantity and frequency of alcohol use. Alcohol abuse is a serious health concern, as it has been shown to be associated with higher rates of psychiatric disorders, vocational issues, medical problems, suicidal ideation, and attempts. The factors contributing to alcohol abuse can be varied and complex, making understanding as well as treating the problem difficult. Physiological, psychological, as well as social contributors to alcohol abuse need to be examined if we are to properly tackle this issue. One potential area for examination is a sense of dislocation, or lack of interpersonal connectedness, and its association with alcohol use. Drawling from the dislocation theory of addiction we examined whether self-reported interpersonal connectedness among younger U.S. veterans has an effect on their alcohol use.
A cross sectional secondary data analysis was conducted using a part of the data collected for a randomized web-based alcohol intervention for young adult veterans (n=784), age 18 to 34. The Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT) score was used as the outcome measure, with a cut off score of 8 indicating potential problematic alcohol use. A modified version of the Inclusion of Others in the Self (IOS) scale score was used to measure interpersonal connectedness between participants and civilian as well as veteran peers. These scores were combined to show overall interpersonal connectedness with others. Covariates included age, gender, race, education, branch of service, number of deployments, marital status, whether or not they had children, and household income. Logistic regression was used as the main modeling strategy.
No significant association was found between level of reported interpersonal connectedness and AUDIT score. A significant association was found for those serving in the Navy, those having deployed more than once, and those not currently married, p of .05 or less. From our sample, Navy veterans were roughly 50% less likely to have an AUDIT score of 8 or above compared to veterans from other branches. From our sample, veterans who had experienced multiple deployments were roughly twice as likely to have an AUDIT score of 8 or above compared to veterans who had experienced one or no deployments. From our sample, veterans who were not currently married were roughly three times as likely to have an AUDIT score of 8 or above compared to veterans who reported being married at the time of assessment.
Conclusion and Implications
Our findings suggest that self-reported interpersonal connectedness is not associated with problematic alcohol use. Our findings also suggest that veterans who have experienced multiple deployments and veterans who are not currently married are at significantly higher risk for alcohol abuse. Additionally, our findings show a reduction in alcohol abuse risk for Navy veterans. While our main findings are null, the significant findings in our covariates illuminate areas for consideration regarding alcohol use among veterans.