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Hazardous alcohol consumption among spouses or partners of military service personnel: a systematic review of the literature


Background Alcohol misuse is particularly high among both the UK and US Armed Forces. As alcohol use among couples is associated, military spouses or partners may therefore be at a higher risk of acquiring hazardous drinking behaviours than people in relationships with other occupational groups.

Method A literature review using a systematic approach was undertaken in four medical databases and supplemented with hand searches of specialist publications and reference lists. The prevalence of hazardous alcohol consumption among military spouses or partners was estimated and potential sociodemographic and military factors associated with this outcome were identified.

Results Nine papers met inclusion criteria, of which eight focused on female spouses or partners only. The limited evidence suggests hazardous alcohol consumption was not a common outcome among spouses or partners. None of the papers statistically compared the prevalence among spouses or partners to estimates from the general population and few reported associations with sociodemographic or military factors. Deployment abroad did not appear to be significantly associated with hazardous consumption, although increasing periods of separation from Service personnel may be associated with increased hazardous consumption among spouses or partners.

Conclusion Limited evidence was found concerning the prevalence of hazardous alcohol consumption among military spouses or partners or which sociodemographic and military factors might be associated with this outcome. The a dominance of US studies means applying the estimates of these outcomes to other nations must be undertaken with care due to differences in cultural attitudes to alcohol as well as differences between military structure and operations between the US and other nations.

  • mental health
  • substance misuse
  • military spouses
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