Substance use and mental health trends among U.S. military active duty personnel: key findings from the 2008 DoD Health Behavior Survey

Mil Med. 2010 Jun;175(6):390-9. doi: 10.7205/milmed-d-09-00132.


Objective: Examine substance use and mental health issues among U.S. military personnel.

Methods: Data were from the 2008 (and before) population-based Department of Defense Health Related Behavior Surveys. The sample size for the 2008 survey was 28,546 (70.6% response rate).

Results: Analyses examined substance use, stress, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), suicidal ideation and attempts, deployment, and job satisfaction. Trends show reductions in tobacco use and illicit drug use, but increases in prescription drug misuse, heavy alcohol use, stress, PTSD, and suicidal attempts. Deployment exacerbated some of these behavior changes. Despite the demanding lifestyle, job satisfaction was high.

Conclusions: The military has shown progress in decreasing cigarette smoking and illicit drug use. Additional emphasis should be placed on understanding increases in prescription drug misuse, heavy alcohol use, PTSD, and suicide attempts, and on planning additional effective interventions and prevention programs. Challenges remain in understanding and addressing military mental health needs.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Behavior*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Mental Health / statistics & numerical data*
  • Military Medicine / methods*
  • Military Personnel / psychology*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Young Adult