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Military Culture and Drinking Behavior Among U.S. Navy Careerists

Genevieve M. Ames, Carol B. Cunradi, Roland S. Moore, Pamela Stern

Objective: This study builds on research linking work culture and drinking behavior to examine the influence of the military work environment, especially deployment and liberty, on heavy and heavy episodic drinking among career enlistees and officers. Method: Both quantitative (self-administered cross-sectional survey data collected from 2,380 respondents) and qualitative (home-base and shipboard observations and ethnographic interviews with 81 enlisted and officer personnel) methods provided data. Linear regression analyses were used to examine the relationship between occupational factors (enforcement of alcohol policy, work problems, work-related stress, and length of deployment) and positive normative beliefs for heavy drinking during deployment liberty. Logistic regression analyses were used to examine the relationship between positive normative beliefs and four drinking-related outcomes (past 12-month Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition [DSM-IV], alcohol abuse and frequent heavy drinking, and heavy drinking and heavy episodic drinking during most recent deployment liberty). Results: Occupational factors were significantly related to positive normative beliefs for heavy drinking during deployment liberty; in turn, positive normative beliefs were significantly associated with each drinking outcome. Although the prevalence of DSM-IV alcohol abuse differed significantly between men and women (28.2% vs 15.1%), as did the prevalence for frequent heavy drinking (13.7% vs 8.9%), no gender differences were found in the prevalence of heavy episodic drinking or heavy drinking during the most recent deployment liberty. Ethnographic results provided descriptions of the cultural context of drinking behavior in relation to ambivalent alcohol policy, relief from work-related stress, ritual of free-range behavior on deployment liberty, and long-standing traditions. Conclusions: Prevention measures in the military may require policy and environmental changes. (J. Stud. Alcohol Drugs 68: 336-344, 2007)