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Alcohol Misuse 'A Costly Problem' For US Military

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The RAND Corporation surveyed more than 16,000 US service personnel (Picture: US Department of Defense).

Alcohol misuse has been described as "a costly problem" from the US Department of Defense, with a new report showing around 30% of American service personnel are binge drinkers.

The report by US think tank the RAND Corporation surveyed more than 16,000 US service personnel, finding higher percentages of problematic drinkers among junior enlisted members, but a higher percentage of hazardous or disordered drinkers among junior officers.

It was also found that the percentage of binge drinking service members had fallen from 33.1% in 2011 to 30% in 2015.

An American is classed as a binge drinker if they consume five or more drinks on one occasion for men and four or more drinks for women at least once in the past month.

With about two-thirds of the survey’s respondents "perceiving military culture as supportive of drinking" and fewer than one in five saying they have been strongly discouraged to use alcohol by their supervisor, the report suggests leaders could do more. It also says:

"The change in culture clearly communicated from higher ranks could substantially reduce drinking and its consequences."

Drinking habits graphs CREDIT 2015 Health Related Behaviors Survey.jpg
Two-thirds of the respondents perceived military culture as supportive of drinking (Graphs: 2015 Health Related Behaviors Survey).

In 2017, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) published a one-off report on alcohol usage in the UK Armed Forces and found 61% of personnel surveyed may potentially be at risk of alcohol-related harm, with the Naval Service significantly higher than the Army and RAF.

Respondents fell into this category if they drank three glasses of wine twice a week or four pints of beer on one occasion in the month.

Two per cent of respondents who drank the equivalent of three pints of beer five times a week should be advised to see their GP.

The report states: "It is important for the Armed Forces to take responsibility for their own health, with the MOD supporting them in making informed choices through education, leadership and service provision.

"This includes encouraging personnel to adopt a lifestyle which optimises their health and wellbeing, including a sensible approach to alcohol."

Anyone concerned about their own drinking, or who want to support family and friends who are drinking, can call the confidential National Drinkline.