Mental health outcomes and alcohol consumption among UK military spouses/partners: a comparison with women in the general population

European Journal of Psychotraumatology

Rachael Gribble, Laura Goodwin & Nicola T. Fear

https://doi.org/10.1080/20008198.2019.1654781

Background: Military families can experience unique stressors that may contribute towards poorer well-being among the spouses/partners of Service personnel. However, there is little UK research regarding mental health or alcohol consumption among this population.
Objective: This study examined mental health outcomes (probable depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)) and alcohol consumption among UK military spouses/partners compared to women in the general population. Associations with military and socio-demographic characteristics were examined.
Method: Survey data from 405 female spouses/partners of current and former UK Service personnel participating in a study of military-connected children (2010-2012) was analysed. Comparisons to women in the general population were made using the 2007 Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey (n=1594).
Results: Compared to women from the general population, military spouses/partners were significantly more likely to meet criteria for probable depression (adj. OR 2.50 (95% CI 1.52-4.11)). There was no significant difference regarding probable PTSD. Spouses/partners were significantly more likely to meet criteria for hazardous alcohol consumption (adj. OR 2.55 (95% CI 1.87-3.47)) and more likely to report episodes of weekly, daily or almost daily binge-drinking (adj. OR 2.15 (95% CI 1.28-3.61)) than women in the general population. Binge-drinking was significantly higher among spouses/partners of Service personnel reporting family separations of more than 2 months in the last 2 years compared to those reporting no, or shorter, separations (adj. OR 1.88 (95% CI 1.08-3.27)).
Conclusion: This is the first study to examine mental health and alcohol consumption among UK military spouses/partners. The significantly higher prevalence of probable depression, hazardous alcohol consumption, and binge-drinking compared to women in the general population suggests further research is needed into the drivers of poor mental health and alcohol consumption among this population and in identifying or developing prevention campaigns to reduce alcohol use and support their well-being.

Keywords: military families; military spouses; women’s health; family health; mental health; depression; PTSD; alcohol consumption

Received 31 Jul 2018, Accepted 31 Jul 2019, Published online: 23 Sep 2019

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