Reported stress and its relationship to tobacco use among U.S. military personnel

Mil Med. 2008 Mar;173(3):271-7. doi: 10.7205/milmed.173.3.271.


In addition to common stressors, members of the U.S. Armed Forces experience a high level of stress unique to their status as service members. In an effort to combat stress, many military personnel report high levels of nicotine use. This study investigated the relationship between tobacco use and perceived stress among military members in all four armed services. Results indicate that those who use tobacco products specifically to reduce stress report significantly higher stress levels than those who do not use tobacco. Moreover, current users and those who both smoked and used smokeless tobacco were far more likely to report experiencing "a lot" of stress from a variety of sources than former or never users. Tobacco users also engaged more frequently in negative coping behaviors and relied less on the positive coping strategies used more often by former or never smokers. These findings are consistent with the larger body of literature suggesting that tobacco is not only an ineffective stress-reducing strategy, it also likely perpetuates a stress response in users. It is, therefore, critical that the military improve effective means of coping among nicotine-using troops.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Military Medicine*
  • Military Personnel / psychology*
  • Risk Factors
  • Risk-Taking*
  • Stress, Psychological / complications
  • Stress, Psychological / prevention & control*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Tobacco Use Disorder / epidemiology
  • Tobacco Use Disorder / psychology*
  • United States / epidemiology