Prevalence of Heavy Alcohol Use Among US Military Personnel

"• In the 2018 HRBS [Health Related Behaviors Survey], 34.0 percent of all service members reported binge drinking in the past 30 days (Table 5.1).

"• In the most recent comparable U.S. general population estimate of adults age 18 and above from the 2018 NSDUH, 26.5 percent of adults reported binge drinking in the past 30 days (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2019c, Table 2.30B). Some of the disparity between the military and general populations is likely due to the high percentage of men and young adults in the armed forces; both groups are more likely to binge drink within the U.S. general population (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2019c, Tables 2.30B and 2.32B).

"• The HP2020 [Health People 2020] target for binge drinking in the general population is for 24.2 percent or less of adults to engage in binge drinking (Healthy People, 2020o), which is well below the 2018 HRBS estimate.

"• Across all services, 9.8 percent of personnel reported heavy drinking in the past 30 days (Table 5.1). In the U.S. adult population in 2018, 6.6 percent reported heavy drinking in the past month (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2019c, Table 2.31B); however, as noted, this is not a direct comparison due to variations in definitions between the 2018 HRBS and the 2018 NSDUH. Using the recalculated variation of the 2017 NSDUH heavy drinking rates, we found that 8.9 percent (CI: 8.4–9.3) of the U.S. adult population in 2017 reported heavy drinking.

"• Binge drinking and heavy drinking varied substantially by service branch. Both binge drinking and heavy drinking were highest in the Marine Corps and Navy, with Marines reporting significantly higher rates of both binge drinking and heavy drinking than all other services except the Navy, and the Navy reporting significantly higher rates of binge drinking and heavy drinking than all other services except the Marines. The Air Force had the lowest percentages of binge drinking and heavy drinking (Table 5.1).

"• Binge drinking and heavy drinking varied by pay grade. For binge drinking, senior officers (O4–O6) reported significantly lower rates of binge drinking than all other pay grades except warrant officers. Junior officers reported significantly higher rates than senior enlisted personnel. For heavy drinking, senior officers (O4–O6) again reported significantly lower rates of heavy drinking than all other pay grades except warrant officers. Junior enlisted personnel (E1–E4) reported significantly higher rates than junior officers (O1–O3) and senior officers (O4–O6). Noncommissioned officers (NCOs; E5–E6) also reported higher rates of heavy drinking than junior and senior officers. (Table 5.2).

"• Binge drinking and heavy drinking were more common among men than among women (Table 5.3). For example, the rate of heavy drinking was nearly double among men than among women.

"• For age, progressively higher percentages of binge drinking and heavy drinking were present with decreasing age (Appendix Table D.22). For race/ethnicity, there were no significant differences between groups for either binge drinking or heavy drinking (Appendix Table D.21)."

Source: 

Meadows, Sarah O., Charles C. Engel, Rebecca L. Collins, Robin L. Beckman, Joshua Breslau, Erika Litvin Bloom, Michael Stephen Dunbar, Marylou Gilbert, David Grant, Jennifer Hawes-Dawson, Stephanie Brooks Holliday, Sarah MacCarthy, Eric R. Pedersen, Michael W. Robbins, Adam J. Rose, Jamie Ryan, Terry L. Schell, and Molly M. Simmons, 2018 Department of Defense Health Related Behaviors Survey (HRBS): Results for the Active Component. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2021.