Although female soldiers reported this type of trauma at more than twice the rate of their male counterparts, male victims of military sexual trauma had higher rates of alcohol consumption, more frequent heavy drinking and experienced more alcohol-related problems.
April 27, 2023 | Erin Bluvas, firstname.lastname@example.org
Jennifer Fillo, assistant professor of health promotion, education, and behavior at the University of South Carolina’s Arnold School of Public Health, has collaborated with colleagues from the University at Buffalo and Johns Hopkins University to examine the alcohol use of male and female soldiers who have experienced military sexual trauma. Published in the journal, Alcohol: Clinical and Experimental Research, the study found that although female soldiers reported this type of trauma at more than twice the rate of their male counterparts, male victims of military sexual trauma had higher rates of alcohol consumption, more frequent heavy drinking and experienced more alcohol-related problems.
“Military sexual trauma, which includes unwanted physical contact and verbal remarks of a sexual nature, is linked to a range of negative health outcomes and is a pressing public health issue within the U.S. Armed Forces,” Fillo says. “We know there is a strong potential for these service members to experience mental health issues, but we previously knew far less about how military sexual trauma contributes to one of the top challenges already faced by this population: alcohol misuse.”
With this study, the researchers analyzed data collected from U.S. Army Reserve/National Guard soldiers and their spouses/partners (i.e., Operation: SAFETY). They looked at the prevalence and types of military sexual trauma experiences and their relationship to alcohol misuse (i.e., total consumption, heavy drinking frequency, alcohol problems) – comparing the differences between 334 males and 70 females.
One-third of the participants reported a history of military sexual trauma, with significant differences by sex (Females: 61.4 percent; Males: 27.8 percent). The authors found that males with a history of military sexual trauma reported 70 percent higher alcohol consumption, 86 percent more frequent heavy drinking and 45 percent higher alcohol problem scores compared to males who have never experienced military sexual trauma.
"This study shows that military sexual trauma is an important and prevalent experience that deserves additional attention alongside more traditional notions of service-connected trauma," says Fillo, who notes that this view is aligned with the U.S. Army, who identified sexual assault/harassment as one of several key harmful behaviors (along with suicide, discrimination, racism, extremism) that undermines trust and negatively impacts force readiness. “Our findings highlight the need for greater screening, prevention and intervention for female and male, current and previous, service members across all branches and components of the U.S. Armed Forces.”
Research reported in this manuscript was supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse [R01DA034072; PI: Gregory G. Homish] and by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences [UL1TR001412; University at Buffalo]. Preparation of this manuscript was partially supported by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism [K01 AA027547; PI: Jennifer Fillo].