View Full Version : Pentagon survey: Cigarette smoking, heavy drinking on the rise in military

03-09-04, 03:45 PM
Pentagon survey: Cigarette smoking, heavy drinking on the rise in military

By Sandra Jontz, Stars and Stripes
European edition, Tuesday, March 9, 2004

ARLINGTON, Va. — Heavy drinking was up in the military, particularly among younger servicemembers, according to a 2002 health survey released Monday.

Heavy alcohol use, defined as five or more drinks during one occasion at least once a week, showed a “statistically significant increase” between 1998 and 2002 among active-duty personnel who took part in the Defense Department’s Survey of Health Related Behaviors Among Military Personnel, according to researcher Robert Bray, with Research Triangle Institute, which has been conducting the survey for the Pentagon since 1980.

The number of military people who said they drank heavily rose from 15.4 percent to 18.1 percent, and was especially high among younger servicemembers, Bray said.

When compared to the civilian population, heavy alcohol use among those 18 to 25 years old was 27 percent, versus the civilian 15 percent, he said.

The heavy and binge drinkers is highest among the most junior of military personnel, those whose “behaviors have not been fully shaped” by being in the service, said Dr. William Winkenwerder Jr. the department’s assistant secretary of defense for Health Affairs. “We’re particularly interested in targeting those behaviors.”

The survey showed a significant downturn in illicit drug use over the decades, from 27.6 percent in 1980 to 3.4 percent in 2002.

While cigarette smoking had decreased over the past two decades, the 2002 survey showed the first increase in smoking among the surveyed personnel, another “statistically significant increase,” from 29.9 percent in 1998 to 33.8 percent in 2002, Bray said.

The 2002 survey was the eighth in a series done every three to four years, beginning in 1980. The final sample consisted of 12,756 respondents. Teams of civilian survey takers visited about 30 installations in the fall of 2002 and handed out the questionnaires. Respondents were not asked for names or identifying information “to encourage frank and honest reporting,” Bray said.

When measuring progress based on a nationwide program called “Healthy People 2000,” set up by the Department of Health and Human Services, the military failed to meet two-thirds of the program’s goals, including objectives such as overweight, cigarette smoking, smokeless tobacco use, checking blood pressure and condom use.

It did meet goals such as amount of strenuous exercise performed, seat belt and help used, and getting the recommended annual Pap smears for women.

The survey also asked questions about stress both at work and at home. About 33 percent of respondents said they felt a lot of stress at work, and about 18 percent at home.

The three most commonly used strategies to cope were thinking of a plan of attack or solution (83.1 percent), speaking with a family member or friend (75.1 percent), and resorting to exercise or sports (60.8 percent).

On the disappointing end, Winkenwerder said, about 25 percent said they resorted to taking a drink of alcohol in order to cope.

RTI is a nonprofit research organization in the fields of health and medicine, environmental protection, technology commercialization, decision support systems, and education and training, according to its Web site.




03-15-04, 06:24 PM
Just like the Old Corps back in '56.