Patterns of drinking in the UK Armed Forces

Addiction. 2007 Nov;102(11):1749-59. doi: 10.1111/j.1360-0443.2007.01978.x.


Aims: To examine patterns of drinking in the UK Armed Forces, how they vary according to gender and other demographics, and to make comparisons with the general population.

Design: Large cross-sectional postal questionnaire study (response rate 60%).

Setting: United Kingdom.

Participants: A random representative sample of the regular UK Armed Forces who were in service in March 2003 (n = 8686; 7937 men, 749 women). Comparisons were made with the general population of Great Britain.

Measurements: Alcohol consumption was assessed using the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT).

Findings: Sixty-seven per cent of men and 49% of women in the UK Armed Forces had an AUDIT score of 8+ (defined as hazardous drinking), compared to 38% of men and 16% of women in the general population. In both sexes, for all ages, the military have a higher prevalence of hazardous drinking. Binge drinking was associated with being younger, being in the Army, being single, being a smoker and being white. Among military men, heavy drinking (AUDIT score 16+) was associated with holding a lower rank, being younger, being single, being in the Naval Service or Army, being deployed to Iraq, not having children, being a smoker, having a combat role and having a parent with a drink or drug problem.

Conclusions: Excessive alcohol consumption is more common in the UK Armed Forces than in the general population. There are certain socio-demographic characteristics associated with heavy drinking within the military; for example, young age, being single and being a smoker, which may allow the targeting of preventive interventions.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking / adverse effects
  • Alcohol Drinking / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Military Personnel / psychology*
  • Psychometrics / statistics & numerical data
  • Sex Distribution
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United Kingdom