Military service and alcohol use: a systematic narrative review

Alison Osborne*, Gemma Wilson-Menzfeld, Gill McGill, Matt Kiernan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

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Background: Despite research highlighting the role of alcohol in military life, specifically in relation to mental health and certain combat experiences, there is no synthesised evidence looking at the relationship between military service and alcohol use.

Aims: To synthesize and examine evidence exploring the relationship between military service and alcohol use.

Methods: Six databases were examined across a 10-year period. Papers were included if they involved a military population and focused on alcohol use. From 4046 papers identified, 29 papers were included in the review.

Results: Military characteristics and experience were linked to high levels of alcohol use across military populations. Societal and cultural factors also played a role in alcohol use in military populations. Predatory behaviour of alcohol establishments, pressures to conform, an acceptance of alcohol use, and the role of religious services and military affiliated social networks were all considered. Excessive drinking impacted physical and mental health. Those diagnosed with PTSD and associated symptoms appeared to have greater alcohol use.

Conclusions: This review identified certain characteristics and experiences of military service that are associated with higher levels of alcohol use. It is important to identify risk factors for alcohol misuse to develop appropriate policy, targeting prevention.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberkqac045
Pages (from-to)313-323
Number of pages11
JournalOccupational Medicine
Issue number5
Early online date8 Jun 2022
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2022


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