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Calhoun PS, Wilson SM, Dedert EA, Cunningham KC, Burroughs TK, Hicks TA, Beckham JC, Kudler HS, Straits-Troster K. The association of alcohol consumption patterns with self-rated physical health and psychiatric distress among Afghanistan- and Iraq-era U.S. veterans. Psychiatry Research. 2018 Jan 1; 259:142-147.
Alcohol misuse is associated with negative mental and physical health outcomes, which presents a public health concern in veterans. However, less is known regarding outcomes among veterans with low to moderate alcohol consumption. This study included veterans with military service in Iraq and/or Afghanistan (N = 1083) who resided in the VA Mid-Atlantic region catchment area (North Carolina, Virginia, and parts of West Virginia). Participants completed a mailed survey that inquired about demographics, past-year alcohol consumption, self-rated physical health, and psychiatric symptoms. Logistic regression was used to evaluate associations between alcohol consumption and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and self-rated physical health. In both bivariate results and adjusted models, non-drinkers and hazardous drinkers were more likely to endorse clinically significant PTSD and depression symptoms than moderate drinkers. Moderate drinkers were also less likely to report fair/poor health, after adjusting for demographics and psychiatric symptoms. Results overall showed a U-shaped curve, such that moderate alcohol use was associated with lower rates of mental health problems and fair/poor health. While the VA routinely screens for alcohol misuse, current results suggest that non-drinkers are also at risk for poor mental and physical health.