The Association of Alcohol Consumption Patterns with Self-related Physical Health and Psychiatric Distress among Afghan and Iraq Era US Veterans


A study which examines the mental and physical health of veterans with low to moderate alcohol consumption.


Alcohol misuse is associated with negative mental and physical health outcomes, which presents a public health concern in veterans. However, less is known regarding outcomes among veterans with low to moderate alcohol consumption. This study included veterans with military service in Iraq and/or Afghanistan (N = 1083) who resided in the VA Mid-Atlantic region catchment area (North Carolina, Virginia, and parts of West Virginia). Participants completed a mailed survey that inquired about demographics, past-year alcohol consumption, self-rated physical health, and psychiatric symptoms. Logistic regression was used to evaluate associations between alcohol consumption and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and self-rated physical health. In both bivariate results and adjusted models, non-drinkers and hazardous drinkers were more likely to endorse clinically significant PTSD and depression symptoms than moderate drinkers. Moderate drinkers were also less likely to report fair/poor health, after adjusting for demographics and psychiatric symptoms. Results overall showed a U-shaped curve, such that moderate alcohol use was associated with lower rates of mental health problems and fair/poor health. While the VA routinely screens for alcohol misuse, current results suggest that non-drinkers are also at risk for poor mental and physical health.

Full Reference

Calhoun, Patrick S. ; Wilson, Sarah M. ; Dedert, Eric A. ; Cunningham, Katherine C. ; Burroughs, Thomas K. ; Hicks, Terrell A. ; Beckham, Jean C. ; Kudler, Harold S. ; Straits-Troster, Kristy. (2018). The association of alcohol consumption patterns with self-rated physical health and psychiatric distress among Afghanistan- and Iraq-era U.S. veterans. Psychiatry research. Vol: 259, p.142-147.