Economic and Social Research Council
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Depression and binge-drinking more common for military partners

Depression and binge-drinking are more common among the female partners of UK military personnel than among women outside the military community, shows ESRC-funded research at King’s College London.

Researchers from the King’s Centre for Military Health Research at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) collected data from 405 women in military families with at least one child – representing around a third of the military population. Using a screening tool for depression the researchers found that:

  • 7% of military partners met criteria for probable depression, compared to 3% of women from the general population
  • 9.7% of military partners reported episodes of weekly, daily or almost daily binge-drinking, compared to 8.9% from the general population

Overall, military partners reported consuming alcohol less frequently than women in the general population, but reported binge-drinking more often. Binge-drinking was significantly higher when families were separated for more than two months due to deployment. After controlling for other factors linked to poor alcohol behaviours, the researchers found military partners were twice as likely to binge-drink as women in the general population.

The study, funded by the ESRC and the Army Families Federation, is the first UK-based study to look at the mental health and wellbeing of women in relationships with members of the UK Armed Forces.

Lead researcher Dr Rachael Gribble from the IoPPN says: "While the majority of families cope well with the added pressures of military life, the additional challenges faced by military families may explain the additional mental health needs and higher rates of binge-drinking we found among military partners. More research is needed to help find out more about what contributes to depression and problematic drinking in this population."

The researchers urge development of campaigns to reduce alcohol use in military families, suggesting that programmes which successfully tackle dangerous drinking among Service personnel could be extended to their partners.

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