Pint of White Rabbit Dark Ale beer anonymous at a bar
Mental Health

Military Personnel 'Drinking To Cope With Mental Health Symptoms'

The University of Liverpool and King’s College London led the research, involving 1,279 military personnel.

Pint of White Rabbit Dark Ale beer anonymous at a bar

New research involving more than 1,000 personnel has examined the reasons why British military personnel drink alcohol.

A study suggests current and former personnel are more likely to abuse alcohol to either to cope with stress or to fit in with others.

The University of Liverpool and King’s College London led the research, looking at 1,279 military personnel - more than half of whom were serving at the time.

Their study was based upon previous findings which have suggested one-in-ten military personnel meet the criteria for alcohol misuse - more than three times the rate for the general population.

Telephone interviews conducted by the University of Liverpool and King’s College London revealed two categories for the reasons behind unhealthy drinking in the military.

Drinking to cope, perhaps to escape past troubles or events, was identified alongside "social pressure".

Those who met the criteria for depression, anxiety and PTSD were more likely to 'drink to cope', which was in turn linked to binge drinking and misuse.

It was suggested that such cases "may be drinking to deal with the mental health symptoms".

In addition, those who drink at home or drink alone were seen as more likely to also drink excessively.

Lead author, Dr Laura Goodwin, Psychological Sciences, University of Liverpool, has called for a more joined-up approach by mental health and substance use services for personnel.

"This study identifies the need to better integrate mental health and substance use services for military personnel, who may be drinking to cope with an existing mental health problem," she said.

Anonymous shadows of British Army Irish Guards on parade square
(Picture: PA).

The NHS highlights alcohol misuse as a potential result of PTSD, among other substances.

Kate Davies, Director of Armed Forces Health at NHS England, says the service is committed to "personalised care" for veterans in need of mental health support.

"As part of the NHS Long Term Plan, the health service has created the Veteran's Mental Health Transition, Intervention and Liaison Service, and the Veterans's Mental Health Complex Treatment Service, both of which offer tailored support for complex problems, including help with alcohol misuse," she said.

The Transition, Intervention and Liaison Service has offered serving personnel help with mental health detection, treatment, housing and employment since 2017.

The Veterans' Mental Health Complex Treatment Service was established in 2018 and supports former personnel who have not benefitted from earlier care and treatment.

An extra £10m has been announced in December to expand these services, while a new 'high-intensity' veterans support service will be piloted for vulnerable individuals from June.

Professor Nicola Fear, King’s Centre for Military Health Research, King’s College London, said: "These findings can inform the development of tailored alcohol interventions for this occupational group, by identifying individuals who use alcohol in a way that is more likely to become problematic."

The vast majority of the sample were male (84%), with 18% of meeting the criteria for alcohol misuse.

According to past research that influenced the new study, this can be compared to 3% of the UK general population.

Cover image: PA.