Context: Operation Iraqi Freedom offered an opportunity to study the role of alcohol use among men and women serving in the US Army. The goal of this study was to determine whether there are gender-based differences in alcohol use among US Army soldiers, and if so, to evaluate the role of alcohol education efforts in the military.
Methods: In February 2005, 1200 individuals enlisted in the US Army were asked to complete a 29-item questionnaire regarding alcohol-use patterns. Survey topics included attitudes toward alcohol consumption and associated negative consequences.
Results: Six hundred eighty-five men and 325 women (N=1010) responded to the questionnaire for an overall response rate of 84%. Although men were more likely to engage in “bolus” drinking (ie, binge drinking), women exceeded established guidelines for safe alcohol consumption at a risk-adjusted rate nearly twice that of men. In addition, for individuals whose behaviors were not in conformity with public health guidelines for safe alcohol consumption, the severity of reported negative consequences was influenced by gender. Women initially experience greater psychosocial impairment, and—should harmful drinking patterns progress to alcohol dependency—they are at greater risk of injury, morbidity, and mortality than men.
Conclusions: Several gender-specific differences in alcohol-consumption patterns were found. Because the present study also found that women generally have more interest in educational interventions for alcohol abuse issues, however, researchers conclude that the efficacy of US Army risk-reduction programs would be improved by addressing gender-based differences.