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Military Wives at Increased Risk for Binge Drinking, Mental Health Issues

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By Debbie Gregory.

We often talk about the sacrifices that military spouses make, especially during deployments. Besides shouldering all of the family responsibilities, military spouses face long periods of separation from their spouses, and have the constant fear of those loved ones becoming injured or dying.

Now a report from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has revealed that military wives are more likely than their civilian peers to abuse prescription medications meant to treat anxiety, attention deficit disorder and other psychological problems. They are also more likely than civilian wives to suffer from mental illness, consume liquor and binge drink.

The relatively younger population of military wives partly explains the high levels of drinking, but the higher rates of mental illness might stem from the unusual hardships these women face — long periods of separation from husbands on deployment and the constant fear of those loved ones becoming injured or dying.

Researchers estimated that more than 29 percent of the nation’s 910,000 military wives ages 18 to 49 suffered mental illness within the past year and that about 23 percent received treatment for their problems.

Nearly 20 percent of women married to civilians suffered from mental illness last year and 17 percent got help for it, the survey indicated.

Substance abuse and mental health challenges among the nation’s estimated 242,000 military husbands was not examined due to the relatively small number of them.

The analysis of data on military families will provide potentially useful data that should enable policymakers, researchers, and health care providers to answer and respond to several critical questions about military families. Understanding these topics could inform policies and practices to improve the lives of military families and benefit the personnel who serve.

The report was authored by Rachel N. Lipari, Barbara Forsyth, and Jonaki Bose.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.