Factors Associated with Alcohol Misuse among Female Veterans
Women are among the fastest growing population of patients within the VA healthcare system, and one important health issue experienced by a significant proportion of female Veterans is alcohol misuse and/or alcohol-related problems. In terms of early identification and prevention of alcohol use disorder, it is important to explore various aspects of alcohol misuse, including intrapersonal, interpersonal, and social consequences. For example, existing research suggests that several forms of interpersonal violence are associated with alcohol misuse. Thus, this study examined the demographic/military, interpersonal violence, and mental health correlates of alcohol misuse among female Veterans seeking VA healthcare. Using VA data, investigators identified 369 female Veterans receiving care within the VA New England Healthcare System, who then completed a written survey between 2/12 and 4/12. The survey included questions regarding demographics and military-related characteristics (i.e., service branch and number of deployments). Veterans also responded to the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT) – a 10-item questionnaire to assess problematic drinking, as well as self-report measures for depression, PTSD, military sexual trauma (MST), lifetime physical and sexual assault, and past-year psychological intimate partner violence (IPV).
- Younger age, adulthood physical abuse, military sexual trauma, past-year psychological aggression by an intimate partner, and PTSD and depression symptom severity showed significant associations with alcohol misuse. Two of these associations – younger age and past-year psychological IPV – remained significant when examined in logistic regression models.
- Among the 369 female Veterans in this study, 21% screened positive for unsafe drinking, while 6% screened positive for an alcohol use disorder.
- Data were collected through patient self-report.
- Alcohol use and IPV were assessed in the past year, whereas depression and PTSD were assessed in the past week and past month, respectively.
- Female Veterans at risk for alcohol use disorders may benefit from screening and intervention efforts that take into account exposure to interpersonal violence and mental health symptoms.
Dr. Iverson is supported by an HSR&D Career Development Award, and she is part of VA's National Center for PTSD and HSR&D's Center for Healthcare Organization and Implementation Research, both located in Boston, MA.
Gobin R, Green K, and Iverson K. Alcohol Misuse among Female Veterans: Exploring Associations with Interpersonal Violence and Mental Health. Substance Use & Misuse.2015;50(14):1765-77.