Binge drinking (drinking on a single occasion >or=5 drinks for men or >or=4 drinks for women) is a common risk behavior among U.S. adults that is associated with many adverse health and social consequences. However, little is known about binge drinking among active-duty military personnel (ADMP). The objectives of this study were to quantify episodes of binge drinking, to characterize ADMP who binge-drink, and to examine the relationship between binge drinking and related harms.
The prevalence of binge drinking and related harms was assessed from responses to the 2005 Department of Defense Survey of Health Related Behaviors Among Military Personnel (n=16,037), an anonymous, self-administered survey. The data were analyzed in 2007 after the release of the public-use data.
In 2005, a total of 43.2% of ADMP reported past-month binge drinking, resulting in 29.7 episodes per person per year. In all, 67.1% of binge episodes were reported by personnel aged 17-25 years (46.7% of ADMP), and 25.1% of these episodes were reported by underage youth (aged 17-20 years). Heavy drinkers (19.8% of ADMP) were responsible for 71.5% of the binge-drinking episodes and had the highest number of annual per-capita episodes of binge drinking (112.6 episodes). Compared to nonbinge drinkers, binge drinkers were more likely to report alcohol-related harms, including job performance problems (AOR=6.5; 95% CI=4.65, 9.15); alcohol-impaired driving (AOR=4.9; 95% CI=3.68, 6.49); and criminal justice problems (AOR=6.2; 95% CI=4.00, 9.72).
Binge drinking is common among ADMP and is strongly associated with adverse health and social consequences. Effective interventions (e.g., the enforcement and retainment of the minimum legal drinking age) to prevent binge drinking should be implemented across the military and in conjunction with military communities to discourage binge drinking.