Data was collected by researchers over a three year period on about 1,000 Ohio National Guard soldiers who returned from Iraq or Afghanistan. Researchers asked about their alcohol use and about stress in their lives since they returned. They were also asked about their exposure to traumatic events such as:
- Land Mines
- Vehicle Crashes
- Enemy Fire
- Deaths of Fellow Soldiers
Researchers found that sixty percent had experienced combat-related trauma, and 36 percent had experienced life problems since they returned. In the first interview, researchers found that 13 percent of veterans reported alcohol abuse or dependence. In the second interview 7 percent and 5 percent in their third interview. Researchers determined that combat-related events were only marginally associated with alcohol problems.
Researchers found that 17 percent of the veterans said they were sexually harassed during their most recent deployment. An increased risk for alcohol problems was most associated with having at least one civilian point of stress or an incident of sexual harassment during deployment, the article notes.
“Exposure to the traumatic event itself has an important effect on mental health in the short-term, but what defines long-term mental health problems is having to deal with a lot of daily life difficulties that arise in the aftermath—when soldiers come home,” lead researcher Magdalena Cerdá of the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health said in a news release.
The study appears in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.